I’m just back from six days in India - of which more later - and among the many new experiences of the week was BA delivering me to New Delhi an hour late (somewhat usually) but without my checked luggage (WTF?).

There’s nothing quite like flying half way across the world and standing next to the carousel like a spanner for an hour as lots of other people retrieve their bag … and you don’t.

I will admit to thinking some very black thoughts about Indian efficiency, many of which were unjustified prejudice as it would appear my bag never left Heathrow - despite us sitting on the stand for an hour past our scheduled take off. Oh, and I dropped off the bag a full 3 hours before departure too.

Apparently this happened to about twenty of us on the flight - there are whispers of a software fault at terminal 5 that day. What wasn’t very efficient, though, was BA’s information desk, where one member of staff was handling 20 pissed off passengers.

Having filled out a customs declaration for my bag’s eventual appearance, I was told to do it again without the values of the items, as any non trivial total could cause a delay. Not that I was importing lots, but a couple of suits and a travel monitor, plus a decent Samsonite suitcase, soon add up.

The bag was eventually delivered to my hotel (150 miles from Delhi) about 51 hours later, having taken the same flight as me but a day later. BA’s delayed baggage tracking site is at best painfully behind reality, and the hugely delayed responses to Twitter direct messages (the only sensible choice when phone and internet are constricted) are pathetic - “these things take time” is just what you need as you enter hour 48 in the same underwear and wonder how much to buy (and whether you’ll ever get reimbursed).

It’s pretty clear BA’s own staff have no more information than you can see on the stupid website, but on the morning of day 3 on the ground, I got a WhatsApp call from their local fixer who was in the right city with my bag and asked where I wanted it. Handy since I’d lacked the final address when completing the original report. They refused to hand it over to reception without a photo of my ID, which thankfully I had on me and was able to WhatsApp to the receptionist as I wasn’t there to take delivery.

While you can of course have things tailored in India for prices far cheaper than the UK, time was of the essence and I didn’t want to monopolize the available Hindi speakers in our group, so I fired up Google maps and located … Marks and Spencer! Yes, in probably the same year they closed in Macclesfield, they opened in Jaipur. The prices were about par with the UK, and in addition to the basics I bagged a cheap suit for the wedding I was attending.

Compensation for this sort of thing is apparently very limited (thank goodness they didn’t lose the bag completely as that’s generally risible too), but between BA and my travel insurance I expect to recover most of the £200 I spent, if I can be bothered to keep chasing for it. I’ll update this post when I know.

Update I filed my claim and uploaded the receipts to BA’s portal on the Friday night I arrived back, and was astonished to receive an e-mail on the Saturday afternoon accepting my claim in full and promising to pay it within 14 days. If only the customer service had been that good throughout!

Talking to other better travelled members of the group, this sort of thing is apparently unpleasantly common, so in future I’ll be packing a few basics in hand luggage, and indeed trying harder to subsist on hand luggage alone.

I’m also looking into sensible options for adding a tracker to bags, as having a live location would have saved tons of time guessing and asking BA.

Final tip, keep the receipt when you check a bag, and photograph it just in case someone on the desk fails to give it back.