Sadly Christina and my fun little vacation had to draw to a close on Wednesday. (But on the brighter side, I get to check something off this list)!
Christina had a much earlier flight than I did, so I woke up with her around 8am, walked her downstairs and waited with her for the shuttle to arrive to take her to the airport. After we said our good-byes, I ordered a latte from our hotel restaurant and walked around a little bit near our hotel before I headed back upstairs to the hotel room to pack myself.
Good thing I brought my biggest suitcase (not a carry-on sized one) because I definitely had accumulated a lot of goodies on our trip – wine, olive oil, lavender body wash, and other little gifts for people. Somehow I made it all fit and made use of several outfits I didn’t end up wearing by wrapping them around the breakable items to ensure protection during my flight. I definitely didn’t want anything spilling in my suitcase in transit!
Before I knew it, I had been dropped off by the same shuttle that had taken Christina to the airport a few hours earlier and I was at the United counter not happy at all…
I still rewind this situation in my head and wonder if A) would I have done anything differently or B) should I have done something differently?
Just as my baggage receipt had been printed and an agent was about to put it on my suitcase before placing it on the conveyor belt, he asked “anything fragile in here”? I immediately responded yes, thinking it would be helpful to have a nice FRAGILE sticker on my suitcase – one could never be too careful. The agent asked what was fragile and instinctively I said wine and olive oil. He then asked how it was packaged. I said it had first been wrapped in brown paper by the winery (with the understanding I would be flying home with it) and then I had wrapped it in 3 layers of clothing, while surrounding it with other articles of clothing.
He shook his head and said that since the wine and olive oil weren’t wrapped to airline standards (in small boxes) I would either have to leave my purchases with him or I could go to the international section of the airport, go to a packaging convenience store located there, pack my items according to their standards, put them in my suitcase and then check-in all over again. Oh, and I would certainly miss my flight to D.C. (which was already getting in at 10:00pm).
After politely arguing with this agent for a few minutes, I asked to speak to his supervisor.
The supervisor was nice enough and understood my predicament and gave me an out-kind of. If I absolutely stood by my packing skills (which I did, I have done this before with no problem) he would let me check my suitcase, but not before I signed a waiver saying that if anything did leak from my suitcase I would be responsible for any damage done to other people’s luggage as well as the airplane which could end up being hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I actually signed this waiver (thinking the supervisor was just trying to scare me and had to stick by company policy) and then double checked my packing to make sure everything was snug and tight…but then I got to thinking, what if something happened? Was a $30 something bottle of wine worth the anxiety and panic I would certainly feel on the flight should I go through with it, and furthermore worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage”? My suspicion also got the best of me as I thought, maybe somehow they will know I signed this waiver and will purposefully throw and thrash my suitcase around to take advantage of a big pay day…Not sure what this says about me as a person, but I will admit the thought did cross my mind.
Just to be sure, I had the first agent describe to me the process my bag would go through before it actually got on the airplane. Whether he meant this was his intention or not, after his explanation I promptly took out the bottle of wine I had bought for my friend at Kuleto Estate on Sunday. I wasn’t too worried about the olive oil, reasoning that if that spilled my items would be the only ones destroyed, but I was 99.9% sure of my packing.
I will say this agent looked rather pleased to acquire a bottle of wine as he promptly took it from me and placed it behind the counter.
Funny thing, on the plane I realized that there was quite possibly another bottle of wine (plus the olive oil) in my suitcase underneath me on the plane – a bottle of white wine from Alpha Omega I had also bought on Sunday. In my shock, disappointment, frustration, and desperation I had only focused on the red wine (presumably because that would do the most damage) and olive oil (and to be fair I also had a bottle of body gel that I neglected to tell the United people about). So a majority of the plane ride was spent going back and forth on this possibility, secretly hoping this was the case as I had really wanted my friend’s birthday present to include wine from Napa, but also worrying a little about what would happen should this bottle break.
Sure enough several hours later when I was home and unpacking I found a bottle of white wine, a bottle of olive oil, and the lavender body wash all in one piece. I SO could have kept the Kuleto bottle in my suitcase…GRR. I was definitely a little irritated, especially because I had found out that Christina hadn’t gone through any of that with United. No one even asked her if there was anything fragile in her suitcase. Double GRR!! And she had packed THREE bottles of red wine in her suitcase!
So I must ask:
1) Would you have answered honestly whether or not anything in your suitcase was fragile? (I do wonder what would have happened if I had said no).
2) Would you have done anything differently than me?