How travelling can become stressful and expensive.

The following event took place in Havana, Cuba. Due to bad internet service, I wasn’t able to post this. I’ve written down this story in the present and left it like this.

It’s now July 1st (day 4 of our Cuba trip)

We’re currently experiencing a situation which I never want to deal with again. During the process, I’ve made a new enemy.
Rather than providing another article for the blog, I consider this message as a mean to ease my mind and to make people aware of never ever using one specific airline company, it being Eurowings. Once this has been published, I’ll make sure to send them a copy, accompanied by lot’s of feedback on how to improve their service.
Generating a significant amount of readers already (very proud to be able to say this), I hope to be voice for change, for a (mini) revolution. Apologies if this seems like I’m exaggerating but I am in the country where Che Guevara had a profound impact on its history and its inhabitants.

The situation goes as follows. Travelling to Cuba, we took a first inland flight from Munich to Cologne to then proceed and fly from Cologne to Havana. Upon arrival in Munich, our plane was delayed for about 20 minutes. We were not worried about this small glitch because our itinerary said we had one hour and 10 minutes of spare time in Cologne to catch our next flight. Without notice, this delay turned out to be one hour. The girlfriend was getting stressed about missing our next flight. I was completely relaxed because hey…we’re traveling with the same company so they will inform the next flight of the situation. That turned out to be a complete mess as the staff on the flight didn’t know anything. They urged us to go the the general info point upon arrival. The first red flag… communication =zero.

We arrived with only 10 minutes to spare. We noticed multiple people in the same situation, one of them already informed that our flight would wait. A big relief!
Arriving at the gate were the most rude flight attendants ever. Practically screaming at us that we had to hurry. My girlfriend still took the time to ask if our luggage would also make it across safely. “Yes, yes of course” was the answer, in the most condescending way. Customer friendliness= despicable.

All good and well, we made the flight, had a nice seat (my seat was completely broken but the staff on board gave me another one, so no complaints from my side. Actually, come to think about it, we were just lucky that not all seats were booked, otherwise I would’ve arrived with a broken back) and were joking already about the situation. The holidays officially began!

Upon arrival in Havana, the passport control took quite long but that meant we didn’t have to wait long for the conveyor belt at terminal 2 to engage, working on full power to swallow all the suitcases, bags and even instruments. And so we waited…and waited…and waited. Until the whole process was put to a haul because there were no more bags to process. Our suitcases were not on the flight. Eurowings, you suck!

Here we are, in a country where they barely speak English (we prepared by downloading an translating app and learning some common sentences but still) without anything.
Gathering our thoughts, we soon found focus and tackled the situation (we’re a great team). We went to the “lost and found” to file a case, starting an official procedure to track down our possessions. The program they work with to file such claims, dates from well before when dinosaurs where still alive! I kid you not.

The person entering all our personal information together with the tag numbers associated with our bags, had to use his phone where he saved a screenshot of an example on how to file such claim correctly. 6 attempts later and with the help of a second person, they were able to file it. Considering the wrongly selected color of my girlfriend’s suitcase and being creative when entering our email addresses (he didn’t ask anything but just wrote down “firstname@gmail.com”), he managed well. For those not understanding the sarcasm in the last sentence… this was a total joke.

Now, the most upsetting of it all is the not knowing where our bags are. Currently, the parents of my girlfriend tried calling Eurowings from Germany. Info they got: We don’t know where the bags are but you can track them online. Status online says: Pending. Okay then. Our suitcases were left in Cologne but the office in Cologne doesn’t know where they are nor did they bother to check their system. If they even have a system.

We tried emailing them from Havana as we figured we need to have a plan B and C when working with such an incompetent company.
First, let me tell you how the WiFi connection works in Cuba. Some locations in the city (such as hotels and public squares) offer WiFi spots. Here you can access the internet after purchasing a code that allows access (1 hour of WiFi equals 90 Eurocents). I can tell you, sending a simple email is not a simple task. The WiFi is slow, unreliable and doesn’t work half of the time.
However, we managed to send an email to the correct Eurowings department. Their answer: the most standard email one can imagine, stating they can only help after 5 days and they know nothing! I was getting furious.
Another email… kindly asking for help and more information about the whole procedure. Answer: We’re sorry but we don’t know where they are. Eurowings: you’re disgusting.

So here we are, not knowing if our bags will arrive.

There’s one difference about Havana compared to other cities in Europe or e.g Asia.
It’s extremely hard to find common products for daily use. Finding clothes in the right size is like finding a unicorn. Don’t get me started on finding basic toiletries. We’ve read multiple blogs and visited a numerous amount of websites preceding our travels. Many of them warned us to bring enough toiletries and even some snacks in case you’re going for a hike or just to have something. We kept this in the back of our mind when preparing our bags. However, still in disbelieve with the assumption that it can’t be that bad. Well, it is!

At some point, we located a small supermarket, used by the locals and I was stopped at the front door at first, not letting me enter. My theory is that tourists need to buy things in small shops, created for them, accompanied with huge prices. Me beating that system was not what they wanted to see.
Just don‘t care about what they say and go inside. When someone asks what you need, ignore it and check the store yourself (if you don’t, they will try to lure you away to another place). Besides that, the supermarket had about 15 different products, that’s it.

Because we couldn’t find all the things we need, we located a Shoppingcenter outside of the city where we were able to find additional stuff (Cubans need to buy their stuff somewhere right?!) Again, very strange looks because we were the only tourists. We purchased a t-shirt for me and some toiletries. So currently we’re surviving on each two T-shirts, one pair of long pants and something to swim. Toiletries include a toothbrush, shaving set for me, shower gel/shampoo (thank you hotel because we were not able to find a toothbrush in the city) and a hairbrush.

IMG_9410
Supermarket in the shopping mall outside of city centre.

In one email, we were told that the extra expenses we have to make will be refunded. This because we asked on how to proceed after the second email. I’m sure they would not raise one word about refunding costs otherwise.
Another person on the phone told the parents of my girlfriend that they will refund 50€ per person for toiletries and 50% of the clothes you buy.
Are you kidding me Eurowings? This whole experience hasn’t been worse enough and now it’s still going to cost us additional money?

Eurowings lost our bags and they don’t even know where they are.
After doing some research, it turns out that 1/100 bags get lost. This is already ridiculously much but okay. How hard can it be to proactively send a message to the people of these lost bags, including info on the procedure and possible arriving dates. This isn’t rocket science and would make up for so much! No, instead you speak to an incompetent person who doesn’t want to take any responsibility whatsoever.

I do not want anybody to go through what we’re experiencing at this point.
We’re on a constant rollercoaster of emotions and trying to keep strong. I know, this is all relative because it’s only material things. We’re healthy, we have enough money so we can’t complain. At this point, we just hope we see our stuff back at some point. I would already be happy if we would receive a message, saying our suitcases are back at home. But, being in this situation for the first time also creates a new perspective. Losing your luggage is an event that happens on a daily base. Considering the financials, this would be a huge loss since you have to spend a lot of time and money on buying other things (without the reassurance if you will ever be refunded correctly).

What I can do is to ask you to never ever use this airline company. Even if they offer a significant better price compared to other airlines, think twice! Financial independence is not having to care about money and working hard on avoiding situations like this.

Feel free to share this article wherever you want. It would mean a lot to me.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. One voice is not going to make a difference but together we can stand strong.

Curious on how this story ends? Did our bags arrive safely? I will post part two of this story very soon.

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