Nice Guys Finnish Last

Posted: November 10, 2014 in Photography
Tags: , , , , , ,

After the unmitigated disaster of the previous month, John and I were more than ready for a change of scenery. Thankfully for us, our friend’s wedding was fast approaching, and so we charted a course for mainland Europe and a reunion ten years overdue. On Friday the 3rd of October, we set out for Finland. 72 hours later, we were finally reunited with our luggage. Here is the infinitely more disastrous story of how that came to pass.

We finished packing at 3 in the morning (no thanks to this lot), and – with our flight departing at 6am – decided that it was somewhat pointless trying to sleep when we’d have to get a taxi to the airport in under an hour. On arrival at Glasgow Airport, our nerves were further shot when it emerged that KLM has zero check-in baggage allowance: a pretty shitty policy for a fairly major airline. Worse still, the self-service machines rejected every one of our credit cards, meaning that we couldn’t even pay the surprise fees they’d sprung on us that morning. Realising that our flight would depart before we managed to get this god-forsaken machine to print our boarding passes, I finally went in search of a member of staff who turned out to be the one saving grace that day and checked both of our suitcases for free. Alas, that was to be the sole rise in our precipitous decline in fortunes.

To summarise a fairly quick succession of catastrophes: the group of obnoxious drunks getting Mel Gibson-wasted at 5 in the morning (it’s always happy hour somewhere, I guess?) ended up on our flight; take-off was delayed for over an hour after we were seated; and landing was delayed by a further 45 minutes as we endlessly circled Schiphol Airport waiting for the fog to lift. Naturally this left us with a fraction of the time we’d allowed for our connection, though the good people in Amsterdam still took the opportunity to scold John for “smuggling” a bottle of water through security, despite the fact that he’d bought it in the airport. (“Very disappointing, sir.” Yes, thank you, nowgetoutoftheway.)

A swift jog later, we arrived at our departure gate: breathless but punctual – and, it emerged, just in time for a fresh slew of misfortunes. John took the aisle seat, I was in the middle, and our fellow passenger in the window seat was in no hurry to make the cover of Sanity Fair. Over the course of the next three hours, he indicated that he wanted to get past us by grunting and waving his hands in our general direction, screamed his food and drink requests at the cabin crew, spilt scalding hot coffee on my leg, put his face three inches from the surface of my iPad as I attempted to play a game on it, yelled his request for a pen in my ear as I was sleeping (shockingly enough, I declined to give him one on account of the high risk factor that it would end up in my jugular), jumped up from his seat as the plane was attempting to land, and finally – the second the seatbelt sign went off – climbed bodily over me and John, lifted his bag above his head, and screamed, “I HAVE NO BAGGAGE SO I WILL LEAVE FIRST,” as he proceeded to barge past every other passenger on the plane. To put that in perspective: we were in row 29. What made this all the worse, however, was that the one of the air stewards approached us mid-flight while this guy was in the toilet, and asked how we’d found his behaviour so far. When we responded that it was pretty fucking bizarre, he apologised and noted that there had actually been an incident in the waiting lounge before he’d even boarded which is what had given them cause for concern. Here’s a thought, KLM: the next time one of your passengers is behaving psychotically, don’t let them on the damn flight in the first place.

Nevertheless, we had arrived safely in Finland – just – and the sight of our very first Moomin soon lightened the mood. That is, of course, until we approached the baggage claim and watched with ever-growing despondence as the conveyor belt reunited every single passenger with their luggage except us. We were finally advised by an employee to talk to the aviator who deals with these situations, and realised – with no small amount of horror – that there was a distinct possibility we might soon be attending our friend’s wedding wearing the clothes we’d just travelled in. (So much for my grand plan of arriving a day early to preclude any potential disasters!) The KLM aviator was vaguely sympathetic to our plight, but didn’t seem in any especially great hurry to facilitate a reunion with our possessions (including but not limited to suits, prescription medication and all of our toiletries), and warned us that it probably wouldn’t end up on the next flight, or even the one after that, but rather the one that got to Helsinki at midnight. To further complicate matters, the wedding itself was to take place the following day in Björkboda, Western Finland (aka the other side of the country), and as such, we had to travel from Helsinki to Turku (where the wedding bus would leave from) that same day. And, since the aviator was ultimately unable to give us any guarantee as to when the luggage would be transported from Amsterdam, we were eventually forced to travel to Turku anyway or risk losing our hotel booking.

One very miserable bus journey later, we arrived in Turku and checked into our hotel, though I was so stressed by this point that I’d begun to feel physically ill. (Tragically, my body’s response to stress is to bypass the emotional response and just manifest it bodily instead.) We couldn’t even face going out to find a restaurant, and ended up ordering food at the one adjoining the Holiday Inn – which, insult to injury, I couldn’t even bring myself to eat. Sadder still, we’d paid for the continental breakfast (usually my favourite part of any hotel experience) and I was so nauseous come morning that the mere smell of the buffet made me bring up my morning coffee. Over the course of that first evening and all the way into the following morning, we were engaged in a fruitless exchange with the aviator service, whose staff were armed with a seemingly endless list of excuses as to why the suitcases wouldn’t be with us in time. To wit: they could be flown to Turku on the Saturday but the earliest flight they could be put on wouldn’t arrive until we’d left for the wedding; the courier service they use doesn’t operate on a Saturday; they couldn’t use an alternative service like Fed-Ex or DHL because we’d have to arrange and pay for that ourselves…despite their respective local websites being in Finnish; and they couldn’t transport it to Björkboda itself because they only do deliveries from Helsinki up to 120km.

By 10am, we’d more or less resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d be wholly inappropriately attired for the wedding, though there was – I admit – a certain relief that came of accepting that fate and giving up hope of seeing our luggage until we got back to Helsinki. (Not least because we had, by this stage, received assurances from Anu (the bride-to-be) that she didn’t care how we were dressed, just that we were there.) En route to the wedding bus, therefore, we stopped by a department store and tried to equip ourselves with the bare essentials for the weekend – KLM having oh-so-generously told us that we could spend up to €100 on emergency supplies for which they’d reimburse us. (Fun fact: this happened over a month ago and we’ve yet to hear back from them about that.)

And finally, buoyed by the prospect of seeing Anu in a matter of hours, we arrived at Turku Cathedral, where the wedding bus awaited.

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Comments
  1. Markus McD says:

    Wow, you’d think losing luggage these days would be more rare, considering all the labels and crap they do!!
    Unbelievable, I would have been just as stressed!! 😦

    • Mark Liddell says:

      They finally got back to us about it last night – zero compensation, just a refund on anything excess that we had to buy. I know who we won’t be flying with again!

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