My husband and I always choose to fly with KLM on our annual month-long trips overseas. We always take our dog with us and have flown with KLM with no issues at least a dozen times. We even drive 6 hours to the nearest airport so we can fly with them. And when clients ask me for airline recommendations why taking their pets to Europe (or beyond), KLM has always been at the top of my list.
So when we landed in Amsterdam about two weeks ago, we did our usual routine: my husband went to the regular baggage claim belt and I went to the “odd-size” baggage area where they hand deliver the pets.
It was a longer than usual wait for our regular luggage. They kept announcing the bags were coming but then nothing happened. So it didn’t seem that odd that our dog wasn’t there yet either. I asked a KLM attendant and she said he’d be the last thing brought over anyway (which in previous experience, isn’t necessarily true. They usually bring the dogs out quite quickly in Amsterdam).
After about 30 minutes of waiting, our luggage finally arrived. But still no dog.
After about 45 minutes, and when it was apparent that all luggage had been delivered, I waited in line at the KLM services desk in baggage claim. I was getting very anxious as minutes were passing, and still no dog.
I confirmed with the representative that all luggage had been delivered and asked how much longer until we get our dog. She made some calls on a phone and radio and told me to wait at the odd-size luggage area and to check back in a while.
I went back to the desk about 10 minutes later and she looked concerned. She told me they didn’t know where our dog was. I asked her to explain, and she just repeated that. She said she was waiting for a colleague to return her call.
We had confirmed, as we always do, that our dog was on the flight before we even departed from the US. So either they lied when they said he was on the plane, or he was somewhere at the airport. So we hoped anyway.
I started to get very anxious. And I couldn’t get any information about what was going on. Just told to wait.
Finally! Good news! They found him at the onsite “pet hotel” where animals usually go when in transit or when flying on their own. So we waited for him to baggage claim come in a “few minutes”.
We waited. And waited.
When nothing happened, I went back to the counter and asked where he was. She called someone. We waited for their response.
They can’t find him.
By this point, on no sleep and with this added stress, I started crying. My husband was equally upset.
I asked if they had really seen him before. Shrug.
I asked if he was definitely on the flight. She said it shows two dogs were on it. I asked where the other dog was. Shrug.
Could our dog be with the other dog going to who knows where? Shrug.
Was he still in Atlanta?! Shrug.
I asked for a supervisor. Was told he’d be there in half an hour. !!!
In the meantime, I asked for her to pull up our reservation on her computer to see if any notes were in the record. I use the same reservation system (and booked our own flights through it) so I knew how to read the record. I was thinking if he was left in the US, someone may have put something in the reservation. No notes.
I was also checking my email and phone messages. Nothing.
Eventually the supervisor (shift supervisor) strolled up to see what was going on. The first thing he told us was that he “obviously couldn’t do magic to bring him back”. Yes, he really said that. Nice.
He made some calls. Asked the other attendant what she’d done already. Waited for someone to call back.
By now, it was about 2 hours after we had landed. Things were looking very grim. We were ready to fly home if anything awful had happened. This was not normal luggage. This was a passenger that was missing and the attitude to find him was very laid back. Like they didn’t really care.
We had already gotten our hopes up once that they had him an hour or so ago, so when we were told they did find him, again, we didn’t really believe them. Apparently he had been taken to the pet hotel by the cargo department. How he had security clearance to get there via cargo wasn’t explained. They didn’t know.
After an emotional roller coaster for almost three hours, our dog arrived. They did all apologize and let us take him out the kennel. He was fine. Apparently, while we were going through hell, he had a walk and something to eat.
We will never forget the ordeal we went through and are very hesitant about flying with KLM to Amsterdam again. We are booked to fly home with them in a few weeks and I’m already nervous.
I did a customer complaint and am not satisfied with their standard response. 3,500 Skymiles each. Thanks.
It’s not clear who’s fault the mix-up was. But it was not ours. The kennel was clearly labeled with the baggage claim label from the airline, as well as destination and flight information that I always put on the kennel in case of emergency. Our dog was correctly reserved and confirmed.
What upsets me the most, from both a traveler and a travel professional perspective, is that an airline that I trusted and I thought previously had really genuinely cared for its passengers (and our “belongings”) has overall just shrugged in response. I’d expect that from some of their competitors, but not from friendly KLM!
- Leila Coe, CTA