Lost baggage in Bangladesh. Now what?

(Written back in March 5, 2013).

My first ever post.  What a sad way to start.  I cannot believe after decades of travelling,  Etihad Airlines were the first airlines ever to lose my luggage and namely all my clothes and toiletries.  I have never flown with them before.  Ok - I take that back - some memory of Bangladesh Biman is surfacing here but I may have blotted it out at the time, due to the incessant shrieks of my mother hysterically baying for Biman's blood after the airline lost her luggage.  The experience scarred me I am sure and goof fortune had the sense to keep me protected from the horror of lost luggage as am sure she felt I had done my time - until now.

I am wide awake in Dhaka,  hearing the local muezzin call the locals for prayers through a shaky microphone.  So I decide to sit and write this from my hotel room as I try and figure out how to manage 2-3 days of meetings when all I have is the clothes I stand in (well ok, I managed to  remember to pack clean under garments in my cabin baggage).  But that was it.

No toothbrush and toothpaste.   No toiletries.  No lovely Badedas, my shower gel of choice wafting out of my expensive hotel room.  Sorry did I mention that most nice hotels in Dhaka cost a fortune? I could have had a 7 night wonderful stay in Thailand for the same price of a two night stay in Dhaka.  But I choose to be in Dhaka.

I was reassured by Eithad staff that all would be ok  By the lovely rep in Dhaka airport.  I am not so sure though. When I said I suspected that I would be a case of out of sight and out of mind - there was no rushing reassurance to say otherwise.  Hmmmm.

So now I have to chase my luggage (luckily the hotel I am staying at will help me out).

So this is the procedure I went through before I reached my hotel.

1. Be greeted by excited ported who spots you are an NRB (via english clothes and haircut), and runs to assist you.  Even though this is not allowed by the police, it helps us travellers as the luggage carousal machines are nightmare. As the luggage is manually lifted off the wagons you are so busy keeping an eagle eye on the chute where the luggage appears you forget to perhaps keep an eye on your hand luggage and handbag.  Hence porters are great.  They focus on getting you your hold luggage, go and run and get updates for us - while you can  sit and just sip a drink and read a book while you wait.

2.  Lone businesswoman like me is billy no mates, waiting and waiting for that one piece of luggage, so other female travellers strike up a chat.   You realise how nice everyone is and genuinely curious and friendly.  Meanwhile my porter insists that my luggage will surely be next.  Under his grin, even he is calculating the cost of the tip versus the time he is taking to wait for said luggage to appear when really he needs to be back on duty.  He even points to any suitcase to keep my morale going lunging forward to ask  'Madam, is it yours - is it, is it?".  I slowly exhale and shake my head. Until, even he quietly announces 'Ah, the plane has lost your luggage' followed by me immediately asking how, why, when he knew and he replies quietly 'because they just told me all the luggage is off and er - the carousel has stopped turning'.

3. The porter quickly attracts attention as he insists on pointing to the person I must speak to.  He is gutted as it is lost tip for him. But realised my worry as he knows I have no clothes other than those I am standing in as I made the stupid mistake of packing it all in the holding luggage and nor my cabin.

4. Make complaint to the airlines rep - and then while he tries but fails to reassure me, takes me to the lovely chap called Shariad (I think) who fills in a form and really empathises.  I am told I may be able to  get 3,000 taka as compensation.  But thereafter never heard from him.

5. Ask hotel staff to quickly give me ladieswear shops where I can find modest, nice clothes.  Er... I was sent to some dive where the clothes was horrific.  They had assumed as I was western I would be after skinny jeans, t shirts and leather jackets (the clothing of choice for Dhaka City girls, it seems).  I shrank away in horror at the awful clothes on display - some with slogans that are really not appropriate!

Good news is the luggage did arrive 24 hours later.  However I had already shelled out over $80 on new tops.  And by the same token, discovered a new clothes shop I eventually found was really cool and beautiful.  Turtle neck tunics and kurtas, the designs mix the best of east and west.  The three tops I bought have already been out and about in London and I have been stopped by people asking where I got the items from.  The shop was called Yellow by Beximco Etihad did solve it and even gave me compensation (after I dragged a airport porter to hunt out their admin office a few floors up from the departure and arrivals terminal.  Boy, did they get a shock!

Cool finds from this experience:

  • Yellow by Beximco near Gulshan.  Cool ladies shop (and Indie music too!!)
  • Buckets of sympathy for me as nearly everyone I met began to recount their lost luggage experience and general all round clucking and shaking of sorrowful heads.
  • Putting it into perspective, losing my luggage in Bangladesh was no biggie as after decades of travelling there, it was after all, the first time for me.

Future tip (esp for females):

  1. Don't buy posh, nice luggage. The less showy the better. preferably boring black.  From somewhere like Sports Direct.  But attach a colourful luggage strap to recognise it quickly. 
  2. Do not leave the airport without taking someone's name and number.
  3. Find out about compensation before you leave.
  4. Always pack many tops in your cabin luggage to avoid spending money on clothes. Duh!
  5. If you want to get your lost luggage picked up by someone else, you need to sign a permission form and give to them.
  6. Take pictures of your suitcase before you check them in as you can print and send to anyone who will go to get the luggage on your behalf so they can identify these.
  7. Do not rely on travel insurance as often the caveats and hoops are so high, it makes it nigh on impossible to reclaim the value.  (Go check - they ask for receipts for any item you wish to claim that has to be a certain amount and luggage lost after a certain period. So if you packed a family heirloom e.g. grandmother's ring, you would be lost).

Oh, one more thing.  I can smile and know that I was able to survive having had dinner and breakfast wearing the same clothes.  In Bangladesh nobody will assume the worst but if it was the UK, people would jump wrongly to the most awful conclusion.  So thank goodness for losing my luggage in Bangladesh.


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