Lufthansa and Thai Airways lost my bags: here’s what happened next

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Today’s article is by Callum, the newest member of the TLFL writing team. You can read all about him here. 

Lufthansa and Thai Airways lost my bags: here’s what happened next

It was bound to happen. Last week, I began my journey to the Philippines with an ex-EU flight to Bangkok. My journey was not a simple one but thinking that this summer would be okay, I decided to book a rather complex itinerary for my trip to Asia consisting of the following:

  • British Airways Heathrow to Stockholm (Business Class return at £200)
  • Lufthansa/Thai Stockholm to Bangkok via Frankfurt and Brussels (Around £1200 booked in February for a return in Business, with the inbound in January 2023)
  • Gulf Air Bangkok to Bahrain followed by one day in Bahrain and onwards to Singapore (Business Class error fare at £250)
  • Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Manila (redemption with KrisFlyer)

I always knew this was a complex itinerary, but I built in enough buffer time along with protected connections between Stockholm and Bangkok. I could have opted for a simpler routing on Lufthansa or Swiss, but decided I wanted to try out Thai Airways for the first time, thinking I have less chance of getting a cheap fare with them in future. 

 

Doomed from the start?

The trip was first thrown out of sync by British Airways cancelling my Stockholm positioning flight, with the option to either take the last flight of the day with BA, which presents inherent risks when you have a 6am ex-EU departure or Finnair via Helsinki. Knowing I could use the Cathay Pacific Lounge at Terminal 3 as well as the earlier departure, the latter felt like a safer bet. The first legs of my journey were a success.

I knew something was wrong when I checked in at the SAS desks the night before my flight. The airline wasn’t able to print my boarding passes due to them requiring a visa for Bangkok, however, they advised me to go to the boarding gate at Frankfurt to get it sorted the next day.

I arrive at Frankfurt with the first agent constantly telling me that I need a visa for Thailand. Another, more helpful agent was able to help. Due to my outbound being in July and inbound in January, I needed to provide the airline with either a visa for that length of stay or proof that I was leaving the country within the visa-free period. After 45 minutes of my 80-minute connection, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief – or so I thought.

 

AirTags – friend or foe?

Realising the current chaos at airports, I decided to invest in Apple AirTags for my two checked suitcases. These are both a blessing and anxiety-inducing thanks to the knowledge of knowing your bags are on the plane as well as knowing they are not… The pilot at Frankfurt came on the overhead speakers to note there would be a delay in aircraft being loaded due to issues with staff at the airport. I thought the bags were near the aircraft however, upon arrival in Brussels, it was clear they were miles away in Germany. At this point, there was little I could do to resolve the problem other than knowing the luggage wasn’t making the flight.


Brussels Airport was far worse than Frankfurt due to the chaos at the Schengen Border for both EU and non-EU passengers taking over sixty minutes. Irate passengers almost led to arguments with staff and fellow travellers – it was far from the holiday mood. I headed to the underwhelming lounge at the non-Schengen Zone to refresh and recuperate from the stressful few hours. One positive of this lounge was the excellent runway views, where you could see our Thai Airways A350 positioning to stand. Knowing this, I headed to the gate to see if the agent could check if the bags were going to be rescheduled onto another flight – after a few minutes, he advised they were loaded on the plane. That answer was best rephrased as “they were loaded onto a plane” – likely the one I had boarded in Stockholm. I boarded the flight to Bangkok, knowing my bags were going to be stuck in Europe for an unknown amount of time. 

After arriving in Bangkok and with an Airalo eSIM pre-installed for data connection, I checked the ‘Find My’ app to confirm the bags were still in Frankfurt – which they were. Breezing through immigration within 15 minutes and with a cursory glance at my Covid Pass, a far cry from the Test & Go experience in December, I searched for the Thai/Star Alliance luggage office.  Waiting in a branded envelope, a helpful member of staff had already printed off all the details to retrieve the luggage.

Having the AirTags saved me from waiting unknowingly at the baggage carousel for the luggage never to arrive and gave me a couple more hours in Bangkok during my 12-hour connection. As my ultimate destination was Manila, and despite being on separate tickets, Thai Airways agreed the bags would be delivered to my address in the Philippines – which came as a surprise. 

I went about my travels across to Bahrain with the excellent Gulf Air, along with a subsequent stop in Singapore and an awful 2am departure/5am arrival in Manila. Two days passed after my bags arrived at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport with promises from Dnata about baggage delivery coming to nothing. Even with Manila traffic, it made more sense to take a £6 Grab taxi across the city and acquire it myself. This wasn’t without challenge and did require speaking to several airport officials and going through a bureaucratic process before gaining access, but finally, the luggage was back in my hands. 

 

My advice for people travelling this summer and beyond

While I fell afoul of this, if you are travelling within Europe for a long weekend or week stay, try to stick with just hand luggage. It will save you a lot of trouble. If, like me, you need checked luggage, then be practical and do not pack any valuables away in your checked luggage. While it would have been irritating if my luggage had been permanently lost, there was nothing in my that wasn’t replaceable. Do pack a couple of days’ clothes within your hand luggage so you at least can cover yourself in the event of delayed or missing baggage.

AirTags are not a must-have item, but they do provide some convenience and information to prove if your luggage isn’t where it should be. If you have an Android phone, then alternatives include Tile, but I have not tested the effectiveness of their trackers – Apple AirTags benefit from a wide variety of devices they can emit location information to track.  As members of the frequent flyer community, we all know the stresses that European airports are under currently, even if some of it is self-inflicted by management decision, but it is not the fault of the staff you are talking to. Taking a calm approach for both reporting and reacting to a lost luggage situation will make the whole scenario easier for all involved – despite the frustration.

Buy an AirTag from £27 on Amazon here.

How have you found your baggage experiences this summer? Let us know in the comments below.

 

23 Comments on "Lufthansa and Thai Airways lost my bags: here’s what happened next"

  1. Andrew Potts | 31 July 2022 at 6:47 am | Reply

    I have been using an AirTag on my checked bag this year, reassuring to know where your bags are, the best £27 I have spent in a while. I use it in my work bag when not travelling.

  2. David Griffiths | 31 July 2022 at 9:18 am | Reply

    Air France left one of my bags in Paris, was informed by the air steward, one of my bags would not arrive in Banjul but would be on the flight the following day. Attitude of Air France representatives on the ground rather shocking. Filled in forms then told to go away and that my bag would turn up some time. Visited the local official/unofficial Air France office the following day. Staff not interested was told, not their problem. The manager-Vipin- basically said the same. About nine days later my bag arrived, I was not informed but took a calculated risk and went to the airport. Air France now seem to have gone quiet, no customer service. Four weeks later, still waiting to receive the promised phone call.

  3. Samsung do Android compatible tags that are excellent for tracking bags, too

  4. Corinne stevenson | 31 July 2022 at 10:18 am | Reply

    Whilst interesting, the first paragraph doesn’t make sense …what was other option? I think you’re brave to have organised such a complicated journey.

    • Callum Elsdon | 31 July 2022 at 10:31 am | Reply

      On reflection, I shouldn’t have been so confident in the travels – as time drew closer and problems in European airports mounted, I was nervous about things going wrong.

      The alternatives would’ve been on one of the Middle Eastern carriers but there are very few decent deals to Manila. Direct flights from London with Philippine Airlines ended in March closing another option.

      The primary reason for this elongated journey though was the cheap fares, as noted, and I had the time to do so. This creates a nice pipeline of luxury flight content to write about as well!

  5. Hi Callum

    Gosh that sound dreadfully inconvenient for you.

    Just to let you know, your circuitous route to Manila emitted 2.4 tonnes more co2 than going direct. So, as you are enjoying the Philippines, please take a moment to think about the fact that your routing emitted the equivalent of 2 Filipinos’ annual co2 emissions extra over a direct flight (which was already 3 Filipinos worth – and that’s just one-way).

    Maybe take a trip – by boat, it’s greener – to an outer island and see how close high tide is to some settlements.

    If you are still comfortable with your choices, then good luck to you.

  6. Just for clarification. Do you not allow discussion of the ethics of routings such as this and the added co2 they emit?

  7. You can also get a 4 pack on amazon for a spread of £96-99 which seems to go up and down at will but even at 99, imho, thats a solid enough deal.

    A word of warning about the ‘now works with android via the tracker app’ they just don’t. It will tell you if youve been separated from the tag for more than 10 minutes but only give a general location not precision location functionality.

    I got the 4 as a fathers day gift which daughter dearest brought off the assertion theyd work on my android device. Fortunately as the better half has an iPhone ive been able to avoid telling mini-me that they are useless to me if alone.

    They ARE brilliant though and give you thw ability to tell GHAs that no your luggage isnt it New York, it’s at X location in T5 which saves a lot of stress and wasted time.

  8. I have had baggage delivered to many places outside origin itinerary after playing “catch me if you can” with my luggage. This is not unusual, ultimately airlines can’t expect you to stay in a place to wait for them to deliver bags. I had bags lost in Santiago de Chile en-route to Brazil and Europe delivered in Hong Kong a week later. Most airlines allow you to update delivery addresses online now.

    • Callum Elsdon | 1 August 2022 at 3:45 am | Reply

      Nice way to describe it!
      I couldn’t see if the Thai system enabled address changed but thought it was worth noting in the article that the bags should come to you – than your original destination – as I think many wouldn’t be aware of this.

  9. I must admit I did have to have a lie down after reading that itinerary 🤣

    For me, Callum’s experiences have highlighted two important points to consider when planning complex trips, especially when using multiple bookings.

    The first is the importance of understanding that airline systems and check-in agents only seem to be able to deal with the information they have in front of them. In Callum’s case I can see why they questioned his Thai visa status, as the information they had indicated a visa was required for the booking he held with them. The intervention of another agent, who knew how to circumvent the – what I suspect is prompt driven – check-in process, seems to have saved the day. Airlines will not accept customers if there is any doubt about them being turned away at the border of their destination.

    The second is remembering that even though we might find ourselves in the Schengen area, any European airport transfers that involves leaving the Schengen area will be subject to passport checks, so these need to be built into any plans.

    I’m glad Callum and his bags made it to Manila when there were so many opportunities in the itinerary for the Carol Beer’s of this world to utter the immortal words: “computer says no!” 😳

    • Callum Elsdon | 1 August 2022 at 3:44 am | Reply

      Yes, good points Duncan. I am not sure I would do as complex a trip again – even though in my case it was the journey on one ticket which had the issue.
      I will note that issues at Schengen border check points seem to be more acute as some airport, such as Brussels, than others. Helsinki in particular seems to be a pretty efficient Schengen entry/exit point.

  10. Nick Bennett | 31 July 2022 at 1:33 pm | Reply

    I’m sure the green brigade will be saying “serves you right!”

    • No, we applaud his dedication to providing luxury travel content. If we don’t we get moderated!

      • Richard. You have commented on my blog on a Sunday afternoon. Anyone that has not commented before has to be approved. To stop people trolling and making sarcastic remarks exactly as you did. However, I already work 7 days a week so forgive me if I don’t approve your comment instantly on a Sunday afternoon. You can of course, discuss the ethics of flying but given that this is a blog about luxury travel, I fear that it may not be the blog for you.

        It never fails to amaze me how much people seize on flying which contributes 2% of emissions, and yet don’t feel compelled to shame people on the other 98% like those that spend all their money on disposable fast fashion that they throw away a few months later and contribute at least 10% to emissions never mind the thousands of tons that are thrown away each year and end up strewn over beaches in Africa!

        • Hi Michelle. I really appreciate the response and apologise for not understanding your moderation policies. I’ve been reading your blog for about 4 years and generally enjoy it and the content. I, personally, have cut my travel a lot in the last few years due to the impact of flying on my personal carbon footprint and now limit myself to one trip a year. I’ve also become vegetarian for the same reason and I don’t do, and have never done, fast fashion!

          I just found this particular article grating as it included a very convoluted routing for the sake of “content” and I think we all need to be more conscious of how our choices affect the planet. I would still be interested in Callum’s justification of his choices if he wishes to provide them.

          Again, apologies for not understanding your moderation procedure.

          Richard

          • Callum Elsdon | 1 August 2022 at 3:09 am |

            Hi Richard. I appreciate your comment & I take note on what you have said within my future travels. This journey has been offset due to the length with Gold Standard.

          • Thank you for the apology. The route was not done for “content” if you mean for an article. It was booked long before Callum joined TLFL.

  11. James Harper | 31 July 2022 at 6:32 pm | Reply

    I’ve been using Tile with my Android phone for a few months, as ever, they are cheaper from Amazon than elsewhere particularly if you want the newest version of them. Initially I wasn’t impressed and a colleague suggested I should change the batteries because even in the latests ones, they have been sitting around for a while before delivery and that has made a huge difference, I can see where they are from check-in, through boarding and until arrival on the carousel in almost all airports. I’m pleased with them and at the current time they are invaluable.

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