A long but lucky day

It was a long day today. I had to go from Kuala Lumpur to Astana, but the only way I could get there was four flights – two with Qatar Airways from KL to Doha and then down to Dubai to connect with an Air Astana flight up to Almaty from where I would get another flight to Astana. I’d originally booked to go from Istanbul to Astana on a direct Turkish Airlines flight, but I had to cancel my meeting in Istanbul last week, and going via Dubai was a much shorter option. However, all the direct flights from KL to Dubai were full, as they usually are if you don’t book months in advance.

The Qatar Airways flight left KL at the ungodly hour of 3.30 am, and each of the next three flights had a connection time of less than two hours – so if any one of those flights was running late, I would be in trouble. I was worried about my bag making the connections too, because Dubai has an awful reputation for losing bags that have to be transferred between flights.

I had window seats all the way, but there wasn’t much to see except a nice sunrise over the Arabian Sea (which I never get bored of seeing from the air) and a glimpse of the high rises in a dusty Doha a minute or so after we took off from there for Dubai (which was also very dusty this morning).

Fortunately all my flights were on time, but when I transited in Dubai the check-in clerk told me that my bag had been incorrectly tagged to Astana (the check-in clerk in KL had done that) as I would have to take it off in Almaty and clear customs there, and recheck it to Astana. I had actually told the check-in clerk in KL that I thought I would have to do that because Almaty would be my point of entry into Kazakhstan and I would be traveling on a domestic flight up to Astana. But she seemed to think I could check it all the way through and clear customs in Astana.

When I got to Almaty, it took quite a long time for the bags to come off, and mine wasn’t amongst them. After all the bags had come off, and I was the only person left in the baggage hall, I looked at my watch and realised that I had only 40 minutes before my flight to Astana was due to leave. I had a choice of going to the baggage office and lodging a missing bag report (which from previous experience I knew would take ages and would certainly cause me to miss my next flight) or abandoning the bag and trying to make the flight to Astana.

I would be returning to Almaty on Tuesday, so I could lodge a missing bag report then, and I had enough clothes in my hand baggage to last for two days (I’d packed more than usual in my hand baggage knowing that there was a risk of my bag going astray) so I decided on the latter option and raced to the domestic departures area. I managed to get there just in time for my flight to Astana – in fact I was the last to board.

When I got to Astana, I saw that the check-in clerk in Dubai was right – there was no customs as it was a domestic flight, so my bag shouldn’t have been tagged through to Astana.

As I was buying a taxi ticket from a kiosk in the baggage hall, I happened to glance over to the baggage carousel where the bags from my flight had just started coming off – and lo and behold, there was my bag!

I thought, wow - this is definitely my lucky day. With all the millions of bags that get lost every year on simple point-to-point flights, mine had defied all the odds and not only made three tight connections between different airlines, it had circumvented Kazakhstan’s customs procedures and made it onto a domestic flight that it shouldn’t have been on, and ended up in the same place as me nearly 24 hours after I saw it disappear down a chute in KL.

Kudos to the Qatar Airways and Air Astana baggage handlers!

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