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September 5, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Lost Airline Luggage

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Bonjour from the south of France! I was here just a few short weeks ago, checking out the new Club Med Opio. But I was up in the hills and didn't make it down to Cannes. To me, Cannes epitomizes the south of France. Just the name Cannes screams excitement; The Cannes Film Festival, which every year opens its arms to thousands of celebrities, the gorgeous beaches full of topless models, the mega yachts and ritzy hotels ... you get the point. Ready to discover the high life and find out where to dine, stay, shop and play? Then grab your passport and your French phrasebook because we're on our way to Cannes, baby! If you don't have time to sit back, relax and read the story, don't worry! There's a three-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this week's story. Once you've had your fill of France, join Marcela Swenson as she plays tour guide in Berlin. Or if you'd prefer to stay closer to home, Carly Blatt takes us on an adventure-filled weekend in Kent, Connecticut at a summer camp for adults.

Last week when we left off, I was in the Charles de Gaulle airport after an easy, 10-hour flight from Los Angeles. I didn't sleep much on the plane but still, I felt good. Who wouldn't? I was headed to the South of France! Passport control was a breeze but getting from Terminal E to Terminal F wasn't. It was tedious and time consuming. I had to take another bus and go through another security checkpoint. Terminal 2F is sleek. Everything but the floor is glass so it lets in plenty of sunlight, which as you probably already know, is kryptonite for jetlag. Though I wasn't hungry, I still grabbed a 4.90 euro ($6.70USD) jambon et fromage (ham and cheese) sandwich from one of the cafes in Terminal F. I don't know how the heck the French do it but their baguettes, even at the airport, are insanely delicious.

My flight to Nice was on a packed 737 and the seats in coach were tight ... really tight. I even had to remove the in-flight magazines from the seat back in front of me to get a few more inches of legroom. Fortunately, flight time was just an hour and five minutes but the effects of my sleep deprivation kicked in as soon as I entered the dark cabin. Along with most of the other passengers, I passed out on taxi. I didn't wake up until the person in front of me reclined. That hurt. Instinctively and without opening my eyes, I did the same. That's when the French chick behind me tapped me on the shoulder and started yelling at me in French like a madwoman. I had no idea what the heck she was saying and for a minute there, I even forgot where I was. I slowly turned around, opened my eyes and saw she was pointing to some seven-foot basketball player who, I then remembered, everyone had been gawking at in the terminal. He was sitting behind her and didn't look too happy. I was too tired to reason or fight so I just put the seat back up and stared out the window.

Flying into the Cote D'Azur airport is a beautiful thing. The planes fly so low over the coastline that passengers are treated to a view of people frolicking in the amazingly blue water below. At baggage claim, I started to get the feeling that my luggage wasn't going to make it. The moment I didn't see any more bags filtering out onto the carousel, I made a beeline for the lost baggage office. Nobody wants to lose their bags but if you do, the only thing worse is waiting in a long, slow-moving queue to fill out your claim. The agent confirmed that my favorite Roots bag (similar to this) was still in Paris and assured me that it would be on the next flight out the following morning. Actually, two of six others in my group also lost their bags and we were all on different Air France flights. Not good! But in that department, Air France isn't alone this summer. Ever since the implementation of strict carry-on rules, many airlines are experiencing some of the worst lost-luggage percentages ever. According to the Association of European Airlines, an average of 10 passengers per flight lost their bags between April and June. British Airways was cited as the worst among Europe's major airlines and is on track to lose a record 1.3 million bags this year. Oh my!

Everyone who loses their bags on Air France gets a juiced-up, first-class amenity kit. It has a really comfortable SkyTeam T-shirt (I'm wearing it now as I type this), a cheap plastic brush, a toothbrush, a mini-deodorant and a single-use packet of laundry detergent. I suppose that's a not-so-subtle hint that you may not be seeing your clothes for a while ... so start washing! I think the agent was testing me, waiting to see what she could get away with because she didn't pony up the compensation information until I specifically asked. Turns out, I could spend up to 100 euro to buy replacement stuff; I simply needed to keep the receipts and mail them in for reimbursement when I returned home. One hundred euro is currently $136USD. That's pretty generous for a low-maintenance guy (like me) and if you get your luggage 12 hours later ... or if you're in, let's say, Omaha. But in Cannes, 100 euro ain't going to buy you much.

After the 25-minute drive (with no traffic) to my hotel, which was right off Cannes' famous avenue La Croisette, I hit the stores with my friend Elina who was also a lost-luggage victim. By this point, it was 8pm and the stores were closed. But Elina was determined to find an outfit for dinner and dragged me with her. She ended up knocking on the only boutique shop with workers inside; Blanc Bleu. The staff was sympathetic to our plight and let us in for 15 minutes after hearing our story. Of course, Elina picked one of the most exclusive men's and women's designer clothing stores. The nautical theme was perfect ... until it was time to pay. My new, white linen shirt set me back 130 euro ($177USD).

It wasn't until the next day that I discovered that Cannes actually has some reasonably priced shops along Rue d'Antibes, the main shopping street, especially when the summer sales are on -- which they were. I walked right past all the other high-end designer stores of which Cannes has NO shortage. I shopped at Celio and bought this blue shirt for 19 euro, then got some shoes and pants for 80 euro from Max Mara. I won't bore you with the details of my other finds but I will tell you that I bought enough clothes that I actually needed another bag to bring them home in. I scored a rolling duffel bag for 17 euro at Monoprix, France's version of Target. Monoprix is also a good place to stock up on bottled water ... it's just 1.20 euro.

NOTE: Shops are closed on Sundays and the daily market is open until 1pm.

Those of us who had lost our luggage saw neither hide nor hair of it for two days. We had the head of the French tourism board calling on our behalf to find out what was going on. According to my friends, the worst part was dealing with the attitudes of the agents in Air France's lost luggage department. It seemed they couldn't have cared less about the inconvenience we'd been caused and one agent even said, "We have 2,000 bags misplaced and some people will never see theirs again." Not exactly the best thing to say to a customer, particularly not to one who is a travel writer. As I said earlier, I'm a low-maintenance guy, so it wasn't really a big deal to me. I figured I'd get my bag back eventually and if I didn't, I'd have fun finding replacements. I know – all you women reading this ... your jaws just dropped, didn't they? Women are different. They pack all kinds of expensive clothes, makeup and whatever else it is that makes them spend over an hour in the bathroom getting ready to go out. Hopefully this little experience is a good lesson for all: Never put anything valuable (clothes, jewelry, electronics, medications, etc) into your checked luggage. Have the attitude that if your bag gets lost or stolen ... good riddance! It's also a good idea to keep a change of clothes in your carry-on, especially a suit for an important business meeting or a dress for that wedding you're going to. Obviously, the best way not to lose your luggage is not to check it. But traveling with carry-on alone is practically impossible these days, so when I can, I try to ship mine in advance using FedEx Ground service (but not overseas). If you are forced to check a bag, just be sure that when the agent tags it, the three-letter airport code to your destination is listed and that it's correct. Then say a Hail Mary.

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Charles de Gaulle


Switching Terminals


Terminal 2F




Paris to Nice


Cote D'Azur




Lost Baggage Office


Amenity Kit


25 Minutes to Cannes


My New T-shirt


Rue d'Antibes




Blue Shirt 19 euro


Daily Market


At The Market


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