On Saturday the 28th September 2013, a German Honey Moon Couple travelling from Livingston via Kruger International Airport to Johannesburg on Airlink had the most unfortunate and probably a very common occurrence, happen to them.
On arrival at OR Tambo only one of their two pieces of checked luggage arrived. Most readers will probably already be thinking and rehearsing in their minds, things like O well, welcome to Africa, or, happens to the best of us, or even, what’s so wrong with that it’s not uncommon and what’s the big deal.
My point is exactly about the Big deal, this kind of event can happen to anyone, we know this, however the stress factor to the individual as well as the nock on effect of this kind of event can be mark ably different and the chain of events which follow as a result tremendously influential to a Nation, let alone the individual, let me explain.
As this couple was booked at our Hotel, and we had a driver shortage that day, I decided to personally drive them to OR Tambo on the Sunday for their private flight on Federal Air to Lion Sands game reserve in Sabi Sands.
On arrival at the Hotel to collect and transfer the guests and at this stage un be known to me about their Lost Bag issue, I was met with a very tearful and upset honeymooner.
She began explaining the incident and I quickly summed up the situation and began understanding the severity of her stress levels. She had wrongly placed her chronic medication as well as spectacles and some other essential items in her checked piece of luggage, which, as you now know was itself still in transit, lonely and hopefully safely stored in some unbeknown foreign airport luggage store, or even worse a faulty conveyor belt and hopefully, not warm and safely stowed in a new found adopted home.
After all, this was a specially bought Top of the range Samsonite, its size, weight, colour and design specially selected well in advance, for what should be the most memorable trip of a life time, and as it turns out South Africa as the destination, just as well thought out and planned.
Just for thought, imagine how we as South Africa, where fortunate enough to have been selected as the destination of choice? Hours and hours, as well as copious amounts of money spent, meetings held, adverts placed by so many companies and individuals as well as government institutions marketing ourselves as a destination. Then of course the very tour operators in Germany who actually recommended them, spent time on and eventually booked them, to come and enjoy our spectacular country, experiencing our wonderful hospitality, WOW aren’t we especially lucky? Without a doubt absolutely, and so we go on.
First things first. I ask her for, and in-between drying her eyes, she gives me the lost luggage claim form from Airlink. I obviously presume they haven’t called them yet and think to myself easy, I’ll just call them, pick up the bag at ORT on the way to FED Air Hanger and they’ll be off problem solved? Not so easy yet.
Airlink Sunday morning 8am, little too early, they don’t answer the phone yet, ok so we’ll go past any way. I figure a pharmacist in South Africa will assist us in filling her chronic medication, especially since her and her husband GOOGELD the international name of the medication the previous night. True to the nation of appeasing people we are, this was easily achieved by the Pharmacist on duty at ORT.
My inability to get hold of Airlink at this stage, I figure I will need to engage the services of my most resourceful partner and wife Sheri.
Prior to all of this, our most upset and still extremely tearful German client explains to me that they would rather cancel the safari portion of their trip and wait in Pretoria for the bag. They both also explained to me that they now had doubts as to whether they should not have originally postponed this trip, as their lives in Germany are actually quite stressful at the moment and they probably should not have even travelled. (In my mind I’m thinking how awful they feel and what the effect of this would have on our most fortunate position of being the destination of choice, and the doubtfulness of a referral to South Africa.)
Sheri jumping into action in her most efficient way engages the help of the clients inbound German speaking tour operator, Kirsten Stuber from Ilanga Travel in Cape Town. As private individuals, who have invested and who believe in South Africa, Kirsten sprang into action, calling ahead gathering information and organising possible alternate flights with FED Air, even the possibility holding back a flight for a few minutes. Checking directly with Airlink at Kruger International if the bag was indeed still there and the possibility of sending it via road to the Lodge at Sabi Sands.
On our arrival at ORT, we immediately went to the Airlink offices, encountering the real Hero, Johan Prinsloo. Johan astounded me with what I feel is superior customer service. He personally went to every corner of the airport in pursuit of the lost bag. In the meantime ,we made use of the incredible facilities available to us at ORT, allowing the guest to fill her medical script, buying essential items etc, just in case the bag did not arrive, which unfortunately didn’t.
As I mentioned previously the still tearful guest, was unconvinced of continuing her journey without the bag. Kirsten back in action spoke to her in German convinced them to continue and instead of waiting in Pretoria for a bag that may never arrive, she should enjoy the possibility of some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife scenery and unwind.
This they did, and continued to check in at FED AIR, albeit a little later than expected.
The hero Johan, Johan called me on my cell phone when every flight had arrived from Kruger international, updating me with the status of the still lost bag. He kept me updated until, YES, the bag was indeed located, detailing to me the journey it took, going from Kruger International airport back to ORT returning once again to Kruger International and then by road to the Lodge only a few hours later than the guests on Sunday evening.
Johan’s effort, has ensured that we no longer have a tearful German Honeymooner, we will have return business and referrals from their journey to South Africa, ensuring that all the time, meetings and copious amounts of money spent by others marketing South Africa will be worth it.
Johan is my South African of the month, well done and Thank You from all of us as well as the Guests. Judith Criske and Thomas Hamann, on Honeymoon from Germany who asked me to convey a special thanks to you.