How many sides does your underwear have?

by Michael Alderete on 9/25/2002

Our trip to France included some of the worst travel experiences either Rochelle or I have had. We didn’t have a non-stop flight, flying from SFO to London Heathrow, and then to Charles De Gaulle in a second plane. On the flight out, the airline lost three of our four checked bags. Yes, 75% of our luggage did not arrive in France when we did; only Rochelle’s gear got there as expected.

One of the missing bags arrived on the next flight (from Heathrow to CDG), about an hour and a half later. That was the empty hard-sided suitcase we had brought so we could stuff it full of champagne to bring home.

We waited another hour and a half, for the next flight after that, but no more bags appeared. The airline said they couldn’t find them in the system, which meant they’d gotten lost when changing planes (as we very nearly did; our two flights were too close together, and we had to run through Heathrow, something we’ve vowed never to do again).

So we picked up our rental car and drove to Reims, two hours away, and checked into our hotel, sans all of my clothing, and both of our toiletries kits.

Now, the experienced traveler will no doubt tsk tsk, and suggest we were traveling too heavy, and not very smart, by not having at least our essentials as carry-ons. But we were ambitious in what we wanted to be able to bring back (we’ll get to that in another post), and our packing strategy made sense, at least at the start.

Still, after two more days, my bag had not arrived. After turning my shorts inside-out the second day, I was at a loss for what to do on the third. And the shirt I was wearing, for the third day, was starting to get rank. Finally my suitcase arrived, and I was able to change — but not before I broke down and bought new socks, underwear, and shirts.

But that’s not all! My bag took three days to show up, but the fourth never did. Which is astonishing, because it was an empty box. Well, not really empty. It was a very thick cardboard shipping box with styrofoam inserts molded to contain and protect a full case of champagne (I told you we were ambitious). These shipping packs are relatively easy to get in the US, but impossible to find in France — and god knows we tried. This made the lost item almost priceless. We literally were unable to replace it.

And we had to try. Because the airline told us that they had lost it, and since it was an “empty” box, it had no value (to them), so they wouldn’t even look for it. Indeed, even if they accidentally found it, because it was empty, they would just destroy it instead of trying to give it back to us!

You want to hear the most amazing, and appalling, part of the story?

We were flying Virgin Atlantic. Yes, that supposedly Nirvana in the sky, the airline everyone wants to emulate, Virgin Atlantic Airways totally fucked us on our luggage.

I’ll have quite a bit more to write about Virgin Atlantic; this is only the flight to France. But the summary is we’re never flying Virgin again.

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