You wouldn’t think the orange suitcase would be the one that goes missing on a direct flight from Tampa International Airport to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, but that’s exactly what happened at the conclusion of our family trip to Florida on June 30. Inside the suitcase were with three irreplaceable items of my daughter’s. Sadly, we did not place a luggage tag on Vivien’s suitcase, a terrible mistake, nor did we have any identifying information inside the bag.
Lesson #1: place a luggage tag onto your checked bag, and place a card inside with your contact information in case the luggage tag is lost.
After the bag did not show up for several days, I called American Airlines to get more information besides “bag not found,” the only thing the website was telling me. The agent who assisted me said the bag was never scanned after it left the ticket counter. That’s odd. She said it would have been scanned at TSA, as well as on the cart going to the aircraft and again as it was loaded onto the aircraft. The American agent called Tampa Airport for me, and they told her they did not have the bag. My heart sank. Vivien was asking me every day about her bag, and every day I had to tell her they had not found it.
As a last-ditch effort, last week I wrote a letter to Mr. John Tiliacos, EVP of Operations at Tampa International Airport. I was hopeful, but I tried not to expect too much. Thousands of bags roll through international airports every day. What are the odds of finding ours? Most of all, I wanted Mr. Tiliacos to know what happened. Perhaps there was a glitch somewhere in the processing of the bags. I didn’t want this to happen to another family.
On Friday night, I was reading an article on my phone when a call came in from area code 813. I know that area code. It’s Tampa. My mind was racing. I slid to answer, trying to sound calm. The person on the line was Brian Singleton, Manager of Operations at Tampa Airport. He said the words I thought I’d never hear, “I think we’ve found your bag.” He rattled off some of the contents to confirm it was ours. I was a mixture of emotions: relief, disbelief, shock, happiness. As I rushed to tell Vivien the wonderful news, I started to cry. Her precious monogrammed blanket she has slept with her whole life was inside, along with two other irreplaceable items she sleeps with every night.
Lesson #2: carry precious items on your person, not in your checked bag.
The bag was expedited to DFW the next morning, and Vivien was reunited with her bag on Saturday. To top it off, after I spoke to Mr. Singleton, Mr. Tiliacos called me. I was floored that a high-ranking executive of a large international airport took time on his Friday night to make a personal phone call. His actions made all the difference in this story.
He saw my letter on a stack of mail on the way out the door on Friday, and rather than keep walking, he stopped, opened it, read it and took immediate action to find our bag. That is customer service at its finest, placing our needs ahead of his own.
Lesson #3: never assume your problem is too small to be addressed. Write the letter, make the phone call, send the e-mail. If it matters to you, it is important.
We are forever indebted to Tampa International Airport’s Operations team. This story has a happy ending, but it would not have if I had not written the letter and if Mr. Tiliacos had not cared enough to interrupt his Friday evening to take care of us.
Lesson #4: customer service is not dead, but you have to take the lead.
When you speak to others with respect and care, you may not always get your desired outcome, but you often receive care and respect in return. I could have yelled at the American Airlines baggage agent on the phone or written an emotional letter to Mr. Tiliacos full of accusations, but that would have led me to a dead end. I would not have made an ally of the agent, who passed along very useful information in finding the bag, and Mr. Tiliacos may not have been so inclined to help me in a speedy fashion. Being professional, polite and civil creates a life that is more so.
Lesson #5: believe in others. Give others a chance to shine. Sometimes people disappoint us, but don’t let that color your world. There are still a lot of people who want to excel and want to make a difference. My letter gave the operations team at TPA the opportunity to do that for us.
Incidentally, Vivien’s bag was found at Lufthansa’s lost luggage. Lufthansa Airlines was one of the three airlines working that area when we checked our bags. Therefore, dankeschon to Lufthansa for hanging onto our bag long enough for us to find it! Lessons learned.
You might be asking yourself why an image consultant is sharing a travel story on her blog. The reason is “image” comprises three main elements: Appearance, Behavior and Communication, the ABCs of image. This is your total image, and it is not complete until all three are in alignment. Want to know more? Message me, and let’s talk. I am here to help!