We booked our trip to Belfast from London with EasyJet out of Stanstead in an effort to save a few pounds and arrive at a decent time. With the flight leaving at 11:55 am, we were off to the airport via Underground and then 45-minute train ride from Liverpool Street at 9 am. We made our connections beautifully and arrived at the airport by 10:30 with plenty of time to get through security and have a cup of coffee before the flight.
When we approached the EasyJet check-in area, we were shocked to see the long, snaking line of people waiting to check-in and then noticed a separate counter open just for our flight that was nearly empty — what a lucky day, we thought! As all airlines and planes are different, and we are very hesitant to allow our bags to leave our sight (since they carry all of our worldly belongings), we had originally determined that we would save the £5 and take them on-board with us. However, when we asked the attendant if they would fit on the plane, she suggested they wouldn’t and said we should check them. Okay, well – we didn’t really want to deal with the hassle of check-in at boarding if they didn’t fit, so we went with it and agreed to check. Well, at the counter, we were shocked to find the cost had risen to £18 each (vs. the £5 when buying our tickets online) but still went forward to be in compliance with airline requirements. After a few quick adjustments, the customer service agent informed us that the plane had been delayed by two hours. We were still okay with that, as we’re really flexible and figured we’d just hang out and read and talk story to pass the time – no biggie. The attendant offered to provide us with a food voucher for our trouble but was kind of embarrased to tell us it was only for £3 each. We thought, that’s okay – at least we can pay for coffee.
We went through security without issue and spent some time perusing the shopping options inside the airport. Since we would be arriving in Belfast much later than planned, we decided to go have some lunch to pass the time. That’s when we saw that the flight was again delayed by another half-hour. *sigh* Oh well – more coffee and reading before the flight. While enjoying our Starbucks, we saw the flight had been delayed another 15 minutes to 2:35 pm. We finally boarded at around 2:50 pm and joined the rest of the cattle in the queue for seats next to one another, since they are not assigned. The flight was without incident – and yes, I did note that our bags would likely have fit in the overhead with no problems – but given the long delay, we were still thankful to have checked them and not to have been burdened with their weight.
When we arrived in Belfast, we were delighted to find the tourist information center open and empty so we could make transport and accommodation arrangements with them while waiting for our bags to arrive on the carousel. Perfect! We even high-fived on our way back to the carousel – pleased with our accomplishments and happy to finally be able to leave the airport at about 4:15 pm.
That’s when I began to feel like I was in a bad movie. As I approached the carousel, I saw that Maylene’s bag was on the floor already – and open – you could see her clothes in it and things were kind of bursting out. One of the airport attendants was standing next to it and, in a lovely Irish lilt, asked if it was mine. I nodded, confused, and she said “The baggage attendant said it was stuffed and just burst so he didn’t want to put it on the carousel and have anything fall out of it. I nodded and called Maylene over to take a look. I bent over and tried to zip up the bag but found that both zippers and the lock that held them together were missing – completely gone. There was no way to seal the bag shut. It was absolutely ruined. The airport attendant asked if we wanted to file a claim for it and since it cost us $99.95 for the bag (the travel-specific Rick Steves’ Covertible Carry-On) plus another $9.95 for the flexi-lock, we thought this might be a good idea. She told us where to wait for assistance from the baggage claims personnel and we went over there with the promise that someone would be available to help us in ten minutes or so. Twenty minutes later, we summoned her again and even though she was clearly on her way home, she did tell us where we could find the Easyjet ticket office where we could report the loss.
At about 4:50 pm, we finally had someone to help us complete the claim. We filled out the required paperwork and asked about the process of refunding the damage done to the bag. While the sales attendants were very nice and understanding, they seemed to not completely understand the reimbursement process. However, they were kind enough to explain that we would not only have to complete this documentation but would also be forced to send a copy of our itinerary, baggage tags, and a written complaint to EasyJet before anything further could be done for us. Ridiculous since they have all of this same information and have everything needed to deal with our request but yet it’s another hoop for us to jump through made more difficult for being in a strange city where not only do we have to find an internet cafe to print and complete the required paperwork, but we now are also stuck in this town until we can find a replacement bag – at an inflated cost with the currency exchange differences.
We jerry-rigged the bag with Maylene’s belt, my scarf, and another bag strap and I walked behind her to the bus and from the bus station to the hotel to ensure nothing fell out of her bag – after taking on as much as I could into my bag, of course.
I can’t help but feel like I got ripped off today — I truly hope that EasyJet will do right by us but have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll never get a cent for our trouble.