“YOUR life,” said my friend Tom, “reads like a soap opera.”
“Yeah,” I replied morosely “one scripted in a padded cell by someone who’s taken too many hallucinogens and thinks he’s Franz Kafka… or maybe Frank Zappa.”
I had just filled him in on the latest twist in the saga over my passport which went missing last May.
Readers may remember my ‘Gatwick airport ate my passport’ piece.
If not, here’s a quick recap: I was due to fly back to Spain and was putting my suitcase on the checking-in belt when an over-zealous assistant, assuming I was a fragile crumbly in need of assistance, seized the case to re-align it and in the process knocked my passport out of my hand.
The moment I realised it was gone, I informed another assistant, whose attitude suggested I was several baubles short of a Christmas tree and had inadvertently put it in my case.
After I convinced him that I would never do something as stupid as that, an alert was issued, but the passport was never found.
Clearly it had disappeared into Gatwick’s north terminal’s luggage conveyor system. The airline refused to let me board with an encapsulated copy of the passport which I always keep in my wallet along with my Spanish residencia certificate and, in an off-hand manner, said I would have to wait for my suitcase to be returned to me.
It came back SIX HOURS later!
Only after a week of being marooned in the UK could I get home with a new passport. I wrote to complain to easyJet and demand compensation for expenses, loss of income and stress.
After they ignored two letters, I made an official demand for compensation through the UK’s Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).
Only then did I get an e-mail from easyJet, apologising for not having responded to my letters.
Someone called Thomas, from the laughably named customer services department, said how sorry he was about my experience but … “With regards to this issue, when a customer books a flight with us, or any other airline, all baggage becomes the responsibility of the airport… easyJet as well as all other airlines, pay the airport for the use of their facilities, these include baggage handling as well as security processes in place at all airports… this is not only to give a fair and consistent standard throughout the airport, but also to ensure the security of all passengers and visitors to the airport.”
The airline flatly refused my claim and said it was up to me to take up the matter with Gatwick.
Then something utterly bizarre happened. I recently received a telephone call from a London woman who told me that she had my passport.
She’d found it in an outer pocket of her suitcase when she returned from a holiday in Greece.
So, my passport was never actually LOST. It was found by some imbecile working in the baggage area who, instead of handing it to the authorities, simply tucked it into a stranger’s luggage without thinking what grief this might cause.
This was a cut and dried case of dereliction of duty. So much for ‘ensuring the security of all passengers and visitors to the airport.’
I then received a notification from the CEDR that easyJet could not be held responsible for the mishandling of my passport, but it should have allowed me to board the flight with the documentation I had.
They awarded me €250.00 in compensation which I’ve yet to receive.
I have now written to Gatwick to demand the rest of the compensation I believe is owed to me, and if they try to stonewall me I will make another claim through the CEDR.
Hopefully this matter will finally be put to rest before I die of old age.
• If you wish to make a complaint regarding either an airline or airport, visit the CEDR website. You will need to go through the claims process online. It deals with other consumer issues too.