The anorak, the car key, and the airline

16 May 2013

You know the situation: you travel on a plane, it touches down, and well before the captain turns off the Fasten your seatbelts signs, most of your fellow passengers open their buckles and jump up to make sure they’re first to the overhead locker and first out of the plane.  Of course this inevitably means they are standing in the aisle and waiting for the plane doors to be opened for varying amounts of time.  I always thought of myself as smart for staying sat and waiting for the most impatient travellers to leave before retrieving my own hand luggage.  Well, I got punished for that habit the other day.  Birgit and I were going back from Gothenburg to Lyon after the house buying negotiations.  We had to go via Frankfurt, and when I got up after that first flight to get my anorak from the overhead locker, it was nowhere to be found.  There was a black blouson jacket that looked somewhat similar to mine, so it was pretty clear that someone had taken mine for his own and left with it.  I informed the flight attendants and the airport staff, and I did my best to look for someone carrying my parka in the airfield buses that were picking us up, but to no avail.  I then got under pressure to get on the bus myself, because there was not a huge amount of time left until the connecting flight.  It was only when we had already left on that bus that I realized that I had not only lost that old The North Face piece of garment, but also my car key, which I had safely placed in one of the zipper pockets.  I immediately tried to get help from everyone who looked like they worked at the airport to ask whether there might be a way to catch up with the purloiner of my impermeable.  The response was underwhelming, the most help I got was from someone who rang the lost property office from the gate desk.  Of course, it was much too soon for my goods to have been handed in — in fact, we had reason to assume that they had not even left the security zone (and the office is outside).  So we were going to fly back to Lyon without the car key, and thus without a means of removing our car from the rather expensive airport car park.  In the end, we managed to get a hold of Linus, who was at home, was able to locate the spare key, and was willing and able to get on the tram shuttle and meet us at the airport.  Need I tell you he was our hero that night?

The modern programmed electronic key fobs that enter an encrypted wireless dialogue with your car electronics to unlock the doors, the immobilizer, and the ignition are expensive to replace (minimum €250 in France).  So we were still keen to get my outerwear back.  Have you ever tried to get in touch with someone from Lufthansa about something other than booking a flight?  Let me tell you, it seemed nigh impossible at the time.  What did work in the end, though, was filing  an online complaint.  After ten days, a friendly, cheerful lady from the complaints department rang me up and said that she had traced my property.  Apparently it had been handed in, now all I needed to do was to email my address and it would be sent to me in the mail. Five days later I did indeed receive a package containing my short rain coat and — tadaa! — the car key.

While I did get fairly annoyed at some point with the jobsworth attitude of those people in Frankfurt, I did in the end have a lot to be grateful for. After all, Fortune smiled on us when we found a painless way to get home from Lyon St Exupéry, when the person who had taken my jacket made a move to correct that mistake (they must at least have taken a detour), when the car key decided to stay in the pocket during all those travels, when the find was recorded in a traceable manner, and when my complaint went to someone who was able to connect the dots.

We’ll write more about our experience of property hunting in Sweden some time soon, so watch this space 🙂





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