The Tahitian Luggage Saga

Late last month I was contacted to perform of my first Cruise ship since the pandemic as a guest entertainer. October 5 to 16 from Tahiti to New Zealand aboard the Majestic Princess.

It was a little short notice but I was very excited to do it so I prepared and packed the two 45 minute stage shows I’d spent the last year creating, dropped my two Lorikeets off to bird boarding, and received my flight information from the cruise line very early on the morning of October 5.

I was to board JQ217 at 11.30pm in Melbourne, arriving in Auckland at 5.00am, with a ten hour stop over in the airport before flying out at 3.15pm to Papeete, Tahiti and arriving there the previous day (October 5) at 9.00pm.

It was a LOT of travelling spread over a LOT of time, but that’s showbiz! My carry on was packed with everything I needed for the flights and the very long lay over.

I arrived, tired but happy, in Papeete ready to be shuttled off to The Pearl Resort for a good night’s sleep, when THE SAGA really began.

Only one of my two bags arrived on the luggage carousel.

After waiting until ALL of the other bags had been collected, and knowing that other guest entertainers were waiting for me outside equally keen to get to the hotel, I headed off to baggage services to file a delayed bag report. The attendant seemed quite put out he had to take down all my details and hurried me out of there with a “It will be on the next flight, we will send it to you” (now go away) type attitude.

The next flight from Auckland was not until 2am the morning of October 7 – the day the ship was scheduled to sail away for 8 straight sea days – it would be cutting it fine but it was possible.

I headed to the bus and discovered another guest entertainer was missing all THREE of her bags, and she was given the same assurances and the same dismissive attitude.

THURSDAY OCTOBER 6

The next morning, as not only was ALL of my magic in the missing case, but all of my clothes as well, I spent the morning in the resort boutique trying to find the most inexpensive shirt and shorts to wear until my bag was returned.

I also emailed the Port Agent, who is the cruise line’s representative on shore, asking him to follow up with baggage services on my behalf but was getting no reply.

Then I noticed, on the delayed baggage report, they had completely messed up the DESCRIPTION of my missing bag.

Instead of writing “brown, hard shell, Samsonite case” as I told them, the had written “silver, aluminium case with stripes” which was an accurate description of my other case I had with me in the room he wrote the report!

I immediately emailed the baggage services to explain the error, and ask if they if they had located my bag, but got no reply.

As we headed to the ship, there was much discussion as to what we would do IF our bags didn’t make it to the ship before we departed.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 7

Over the next two days there were DOZENS of emails and phone calls to baggage services, Air Tahiti, the port agent but I received no replies.

Also, in anticipation of having to do a 45 minute stage show for 1500 guests with NO magic equipment whatsover (all I had in my silver case were my stage costumes and a large 7ft wide Boarding Pass I use as a prediction) I spent my spare time scouring Papeete and searching the ship for ANYTHING I could use to create magic.

Some people did ask why I didn’t have magic in my carry on luggage. As I had a TEN HOUR layover in Auckland Airport, my backpack had everything I needed for that inside – including all my electronics, computers etc.

October 7th and I met up with the other guest entertainer at the cruise desk on board and she discovered that her three bags HAD arrived on the 2am flight that morning but mine had not. She gave me a Jetstar number she had called and I rang them eventually being assigned a “case officer” who would get back to me “within 7 days”. As we were sailing away the next day, and the next flight from Auckland was not until the 9th, that was it for my luggage.

I was scheduled to do just one show, and it was on October 14, our final day at sea, so show building became my all consuming passion. Everything I saw became a potential prop for my show. Surprisingly, the ship didn’t seem to have a lot of the basics: no whiteboards… so I ended up using a waiter’s tray, no newspapers (none on shore either)… so I had to create my own, have it printed out, and assemble it with sticky tape! We couldn’t even locate three ice buckets… so I used one ice bucket and the two rubbish bins from my cabin.

But a show was slowly taking shape.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 8

On the 8th, as we sailed away, I finally received a reply from the Air Tahiti Nui baggage services, saying they had now updated the description of my bag so it was correct, and letting me know that my bag did not arrive on the 2am flight the day before…

I replied asking if they had co-ordinated with Jetstar to see if the bag even left Melbourne and arrived in Auckland successfully. They replied

“Your bag is not located. This is why we did not receive it.”

SUNDAY OCTOBER 9

On the 9th I received a reply from my Jetstar case officer explaining that

“by agreement between airlines and as incorporated in the airlines’ general conditions of carriage, claims and tracing are dealt with by the last airline involved in transporting the passenger, and to whom the incident was reported. In this instance it’s QF. I would therefore recommend that you contact that airline directly.”

So I tried to contact Qantas through their online form, but a pop up appeared explaining “You need to contact the last airline you travelled with.” So, although the flight was a QF number, it was a code share with Air Tahiti Nui and Qantas was saying Air Tahiti Nui had to find my bag, not them.

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 12 & THURSDAY OCTOBER 13

Air Tahiti baggage services emailed me in all caps.

DESPITE SEVERAL REMINDERS TO MELBOURNE AND AUCKLAND WE HAVE RECEIVED NO RESPONSE HERE ATTACHED THE FORM OF DECLARATION OF LOSS OF BAGGAGE THANK YOU FILL THEM AND SEND THEM TO AIR TAHITI NUI THE ADDRESS IS IN THE HEAD OF THE DOCUMENT IF THE BAGGAGE IS LOCATED WE WILL NOT FAIL TO CONTACT YOU

SEE YOU

This prompted me to email Jetstar asking them to REPLY to Air Tahiti’s contacts… but again they just reminded me that it’s not their job to find my bag, it’s all up to Air Tahiti.

So I filed a formal complaint with Jetstar which resulted in them saying they have opened an internal investigation and giving me a case number. Nothing ever came of that.

In fact, most of the emails I sent to Jetstar after that got the reply “We didn’t receive your email.” Which is the equivalent of someone knocking at your door and you yell out from inside “There’s nobody home!”

I had been emailing Air Tahiti Nui directly as well, asking them to please check the Auckland Airport, as that was the only logical place it could be. It must have somehow missed the transit connection.

But they kept telling me the bag was lost, and asking me to go online and fill out the lost baggage form detailing all the contents of my bag, description, colour, brand, date purchased, and value. Total value… almost $7,500. Of course, in the end none of that matters as they are legally obliged to only pay around $30 per kilogram once your bag is deemed “lost”.

Meanwhile, I was getting emails and messages from people all over the world following my saga and offering help. One friend, who works at Melbourne Airport, recommended I contact both Melbourne and Auckland Airport, as they are the only two places the bag could be.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 14

I was unable to contact Melbourne Lost Luggage as their webpage simply redirects you to the airline you were travelling with, but Auckland Lost Luggage responded almost immediately with a call for their team to help me out.

An hour later:

Kia Ora. Thank you for contacting Air New Zealand Baggage Service. I would advise that Air New Zealand is not a baggage handler for Jet Star(JQ). However, as a courtesy we have managed to find your bag tagless at Melbourne Airport under reference MELQF40586.

They found my bag!

It had never even left the Melbourne Airport!!!

6 hours later I received an email from Air Tahiti’s baggage handlers:

Hello Mr ELLIS. I think I have located your bag in Melbourne under the reference : OHD MELQF40586. I suggest that you collect bag when you are flying back to  Melbourne .

Yeah, right…

This all took place WHILE I was performing my 7.30pm and 9.30pm shows… which went surprisingly well! In fact one of the stage crew came back after the show and said “For a show that was created out of literally nothing, that was f#$ing awesome!”

SATURDAY OCTOBER 15

We arrived at Tauranga the next day and word had spread throughout the ship that my luggage had been found! Everyone shared the elation and we had a wonderful day in port before heading to Auckland the next day to disembark as the six guest entertainers flew home.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 16

I arrived in Melbourne on October 16 at 5pm and guess what?

IT WASN’T MY BAG!

The in person Jetstar baggage team were VERY sympathetic and set out to immediately track down my bag. They reiterated that their system showed it HAD left Melbourne and HAD arrived in Auckland. I explained it MUST be in Auckland with Air Tahiti Nui. They assured me they would look into it and get right back to me.

So I began the quest to replace my lost magic. Magicians from all across the globe contacted me with tips on where I might be able to find this or that, as many of my props are now collector’s items. It was very much appreciated because there’s nothing worse than being unable to perform a beloved routine you put your heart and soul into creating anymore.

MONDAY OCTOBER 17

The next day I called the number they gave me: 131 538. It was one of those numbers that doesn’t play music while you are on hold… just silence. It took 5 minutes of silence before it connected. The person asked me to hold while they checked my file number… 15 minutes of silence. Then they came back and said they would connect me with their supervisor.. 40 minutes of silence. They came back and explained to me the bag HAD left Melbourne and HAD arrived in Auckland. I said I already knew that, but they said they couldn’t hear me. This went on for a few minutes until they said “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you” and hung up.

I then called the other number they had given me, for the Jetstar Domestic Baggage counter at the airport, and again they were very sympathetic and helpful. But in the end went back to the “You need to contact Air Tahiti Nui” line. But I was insistent and they said they would try to get one of their Jetstar staff in Auckland to walk over to the Air Tahiti section and take a look for the bag.

I also emailed Air Tahiti Nui, and Auckland Airport, explaining that it wasn’t my bag, but my bag MUST BE in the Auckland Airport. There is simply no other place it could be.

Air Tahiti Nui replied the next day:

TUESDAY OCTOBER 18

We acknowledge receipt of your request, we are waiting for the response from the baggage service based in Auckland. We will keep you inform of the progess of your file, as soon as we have more informations from them. 

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 19

I got a call from Jetstar and a sympathetic man reported that there was no progress so far, but they would continue to try to contact Air Tahiti Nui to establish where the bag was.

THURSDAY OCTOBER 20

I got a call from Majestic Princess asking if I can return October 31 to Nov 7. I have to find out if a client on Nov 5 is happy for me to be replaced and I have to order as much of the missing magic as I can! She is happy, I order the magic. I go out shopping and buy all the non-magic items I need for the shows. The cruise gets back to me later that day saying they have already locked in another act….

Oh well, at least I now have $5,000 of my lost items on the way back to me…. I continue trying to track down the collector’s items.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 21

October 21, 5.26am I receive an email from Air Tahiti Nui.

We are following up on your file referenced above, and we are glad to inform you that your baggage was found in Auckland (photos of your luggage tag attached). Our team in Auckland station have urgently forwarded your baggage to Melbourne on the 20 October 2022 (NZT) on the flight JQ216. The baggage service in Melbourne will contact you when they received it. 

IT WAS WITH AIR TAHITI NUI IN THE AUCKLAND AIRPORT, BAGGAGE TAGS IN TACT, ALL ALONG!

Many feelings went through my mind….

Why didn’t you look there in the first place TWO WEEKS AGO?!

Why did it take your baggage team three days to get back to you when you finally asked them to look in the lost luggage section?

Now I have duplicates of almost all of my props….

It’s now 1pm. I’ve still not heard from the team at Melbourne Airport even though my bag should have arrived at 10pm last night.

2pm – I called the team but nobody knows anything about my bag – they say they will check it out and get straight back to me.

4.45pm – I haven’t heard from them, so I call back. The phone rings out. Repeatedly.

Is this really the end? Will I actually get to cradle my bag in my arms once more?

SATURDAY OCT 22

I sent more emails to Jetstar and Air Tahiti Nui.. no replies.

Finally, at noon, I got a phone call from a “Suspected Spam” number and it was Melbourne Baggage! They have the bag and want to courier it out to me ASAP! It will arrive between 2pm and 4pm.

Okay, I guess I’m staying home to wait….

4pm ticks by. The door bell rings.

 

OCTOBER 31

UPDATE: I just received an email from Jetstar Baggage Services who seem oblivious to the fact the bag was located and returned to me, VIA JETSTAR BAGGAGE SERVICES, over a week ago.

You’ll note in the email they say I should rest assured as their team has been working hard trying to locate my bag.

Clearly, it didn’t cross their mind to look up the case file, check the Air Tahiti Property Irregularity Report, or even check my baggage tag in their system…. so excuse me if I don’t believe they did any searching at all before declaring my bag lost.

—————————

Hi Timothy,

Thank you for your patience.First and foremost, I’d like to express my sincere apologies for taking the time to revert to your email and for taking the time to give you an update about your baggage. Rest assured that during those times our team worked hard to locate your missing baggage item.

However, I regret to inform you that we haven/t been able to find it. I understand how important to return all your belongings to you immediately after you’ve arrived at your destination and I can appreciate how upsetting it is when it doesn’t happen. Please know that Jetstar goes to great lengths to locate your baggage as a courtesy and goodwill.

Please allow me to inform you that your last operating carrier from Auckland to Tahiti was Qantas Airways but under Air Tahiti. I should explain that, by agreement between the airlines and as incorporated in the airlines’ general conditions of carriage, tracing and claims are dealt with by the last airline involved in transporting the passenger and to whom the incident was reported, in this instance, Air Tahiti Nui.I would therefore recommend that you contact Air Tahiti directly and refer to your Property Irregularity Report (PIR) PPTTN23907.

Air Tahiti will approach us for a reimbursement of their settlement if Jetstar is at fault in any way on this occasion.Thank you again for reaching us.

Kind regards,Ming

Jetstar Baggage Services

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