The Stopover Luggage-Allowance Discrepancy Story

Or, "It Had to Happen Sooner or Later"

Well, it was an interesting trip.

It started with ground travel from Kandern to Zurich. I could've taken a bus (Kandern->Basel) then a tram to the train station. But, that was gonna take a long time & make me leave before I could finish my little computer project. So... I decided to ask around for a ride to the train station. Found someone to drive me. Finished the project just in time. Hurried 'home'. Pulled the luggage downstairs, and waited for my ride. And waited. And waited. Finally called him; he had forgot. But not to worry; there are plenty of trains from Basel to Zurich. I can just take the next train; although it's not direct to the airport, it'll still get me there over 2 hours prior to flight departure.

So, I get to the train station. I stand in line at the ticket counter, just to get instructions for the train transfer(s) that I will need to make. Slow line. Almost out of time. But, I get the info: just 1 transfer, in Zurich. I hurry to the train platform, and get on, with my 2 heavy bags. The train's rather full, so I set the bags in a corner and trek through the train to find a seat. It doesn't thin out until 4 cars forward. But I find a seat, set my backpack down, and return to move my bags forward. During all this, a voice comes on the speaker reporting that there is a detour on the route, and we will arrive 6 minutes late. My transfer had allowed 9 minutes. By my count, that means I've got 3 minutes remaining, to make my next train. But, there's nothing to do about that until the train arrives in 50 minutes or so.

Well, make that about 54 minutes. My train arrives about 10 minutes late. By my count, that's leaves -1 minute to catch my next train. And in fact, it's gone when we arrive. But, not to worry, there are many trains to the airport. Just wait "6 minutes" says the helpful worker, "and if the next train hasn't come, then do something else." Hmmm. OK. Happily, the next train arrives soon, and departs after a few more minutes. So, I finally arrive at the airport. I follow the signs to the check-in area #1 (for my Swiss Air ticketed El Al flight), where the Swiss Air employee informs me that there are 2 separate flights to Tel Aviv, leaving 10 minutes apart from each other, and I need to go to check-in area #2 for the El Al flight.

So, I trek over to check-in area #2 and find the El Al desk. Happily, there is only 1 person in line in front of me. Then, the problems start. Turns out, my ticket shows a different luggage limit for this last leg of the flight. [I hadn't known where on the ticket to find the codes for luggage allowance. Now I know.] Normally a ticket that starts or ends in N. America would follow the "Piece Concept" luggage limits -- i.e., 2 pieces of luggage, 50 pounds each. But, apparently my travel agent made a mistake [probably when I requested the extra 2.5 days in Zurich], and my final flight follows the European-style luggage limit -- i.e., 20 kilograms, regardless of # of pieces. Well, my first bag barely fits into the allowable weight limit. The entire second bag is over the limit. It will cost 570 francs to take the 2nd bag. That's about $450.

So I try everything. First, I point out that all the flights are on one ticket, and therefore I should have the regular US-flight luggage allowance. "Actually, sir, these are 2 separate tickets, that just happen to be on the same booklet." But surely you can see that I'm on the same sequence of flights, so really it is one ticket. "Well, normally that would be the case, but you took this 3-day stopover, and that seems to have been the problem." Well, yeah, but it should be the same luggage allowance. "Well, I'll call my supervisor and see what he says." {He calls. No go.} "I'm sorry, sir, but your ticket clearly says that you have the 'weight concept' luggage allowance for this flight." Well, I can just send it via the post office can't I? There must be a post office around here, right? "Yes, that would probably be a lot cheaper. But there closed now." Oh. Well, what about sending it as cargo? "Yes, that would probably be cheaper, too. You can go to the desk <insert incomprehensible directions here>, and see what they say." OK, well, you mentioned earlier that if I were a "silver club" member on some frequent flier program, then I could take the extra luggage -- I can just buy into that, can't I? "No, you need to have actual flights." Oh. Well, I have membership cards here from various frequent flier programs. Do they help me? "What do you have?" Mainly Northwest/KLM. "No. What else?" Well, I have Lufthansa. "Oh, but you just have the regular card, not the silver?" Yeah. "No. If it were Swiss, maybe I could do something, because your ticket is with Swiss." Hmm. Are you sure there isn't something we can do? I mean, it really should be a single ticket. "Yes, that's your travel agent that made the mistake. Maybe you can pay for it, can keep the receipt, and get your travel agent to pay for it." {Well, that's a bit of a risky approach, I'd say...} "There's another supervisor over there, I'll go ask her." (He goes. He returns.) "I'm really sorry, sir, but there's nothing we can do. Maybe you could go to the Swiss Air desk and ask them. After all, it's their ticket."

So, defeated for the time, I turn to go. But I notice that there's a whole family behind me in line, and they have only a couple small bags amongst them. So... I ask them if they would be able to take my bag with them. Alas, although they seem understanding and willing to help, they are not actually all travelling; so they expect their luggage will in fact be near the limit.

So, I trek back to check-in area #1, to plead my case at the Swiss Air desk. I quickly find the Supervisor desk, and wait til the lady there is done on the phone, while praying like Nehemiah (for favor).. I show her the ticket, I explain the situation, I suggest that it really should be the same luggage allowance the whole way. Her initial response is bad: she circles the luggage limit code and says, "See here, it couldn't be any more obvious." But... happily she then changes her tone, completely. She agrees that it should allow my 2 pieces of luggage. She says she doesn't see any reason it should have changed. She doesn't seem to care about the 3-day stopover in Zurich. She does ask once if I had already flown today; not sure what difference that would've made, but I assure her that I have only taken a train thus far today. At one point, she suggests that I go back to the El Al desk and ask them if it is all a joke. But she soon gets on the phone and asks somebody what to do; they decide to put me on the Swiss Air flight, and take my full baggage. She starts to type it up on the computer. "Oh! It's telling me I have to call on this." I ask, "What, something about the ticket?" She answers, "No, about you." :-O Uh-oh! They're finally on to me! I make a break for the exit. No... not really. Really, I just exclaim, "What?? About me???" But she then says, "Oh, no, it's just something internal. Don't worry about it." And she continues. Eventually, we get my bags checked, my temporary boarding pass printed, and I'm off. Her parting words are, "Go to the gate, show them this, and be prompt. Don't be late for the boarding time."

Whew! I'm in. At last, I can relax. Then I look at my watch. Oh, it's just a couple minutes til boarding time. So, off I scurry. Soon, I reach the gate, and see that there's a long line waiting at the desk, and nobody is boarding yet. Well, by now I'm feeling kinda thirsty. So, seeing the chance, I turn back to the last food stand, and buy a soda, with my last 10 franc note. I get 3 coins in change. [Did I mention that I'm an incurable numismatist?] Two look pretty boring, but one has possibilities. It's upside down, so I can't see the date. But it has that nice, worn look. I figure, must be at least the 60's; maybe it's as old as the 1940's. I turn it over. The date: 1912. Cool. Ya gotta love Switzerland.

I return to the gate desk, get in line, and when I reach the desk, the lady says, "Ah, yes, you need a seat assigned. Since you had some problems with your luggage and such, we'll upgrade you one class to Business class." Cool. With all the flights I've been taking, it had to happen sooner or later. On this particular flight, the main difference was just better food. Plus the legroom. And wow, did I have legroom. I got an exit row seat in Business class. My feet seriously couldn't even touch the seat in front of me, unless I lifted them up & held them out straight. Ah... very nice. Ya gotta love Swiss Air.

After the flight, now around 3:30am, I got the typical sherrut ride to Jerusalem. The driver came at my one-way street from the backside, so I just told him to let me off & I'd walk the last block. Ah, the familiar smell of stale urine on the sidewalk. Yes, I'm back home in Jerusalem.