Dear Editor,

  The time had finally come to execute what we had been planning for, #YearoftheReturnto Ghana. I was excited and more than ready. Somehow it was not meant to be for me but for my suitcases instead.

  My family and I had planned to celebrate my sister’s birthday on July 27 in Ghana. Ten of us booked to leave from Amsterdam on July 24. It was a direct flight to Ghana. I chose not to fly directly to Ghana from St. Maarten but to first fly to the Netherlands where I would meet the rest of my family. Together we would then travel to Ghana. It was definitely not a cheap choice but it was my choice.

  The day had finally come and we were awaiting boarding. The flight was a bit delayed. When we finally boarded the plane the captain apologized for the delay. He informed us that the delay was a result of a faulty aircraft that they had to change. There were also issues with the fuel system. He said he would inform us as soon as he had more info.

  After several long hours and barely any info, there was still hope to depart to Ghana. The captain said the fuel would be provided by trucks. A part would be flown in by helicopter to repair the defective fuel system. My excitement was slowly but surely fading away. The stewards couldn’t serve a warm meal because they couldn’t turn on the oven while grounded and besides that, they wouldn’t have anything else to serve when we would be en route to Ghana. Even though my excitement was dwindling, I tried to be as optimistic as possible.

  In the meantime, we had to ask for water and we were offered one slice of pizza. Can you imagine that? They want to give a Caribbean woman like me one slice of pizza. Did I mention that the outside temperature was 37 degrees Celsius? Some places inside of the plane were not cool either. We too started to feel like the pizza they had offered us. We felt like we were in an oven. What made things worse is that we were not allowed to leave the plane. #BEINGHELDHOSTAGE

  After more than 5 hours on the plane the captain unfortunately announced that our flight, just like many others, had been cancelled. The crew announced that we had to arrange our own bookings via the KLM website. Once we had disembarked the plane there was chaos in the hall. The hall was packed with people, reminiscent of the Festival Village on “Night of the Hit Makers”. Even disabled persons and children had to join the long queue. After so many hours sitting in that plane, waiting to take off and to eventually be told that the flight was cancelled, standing in that line was not an option for us. We were tired and hungry. In addition my mom (age 86) had to take her medication. Since a steward had told us that they would rebook everyone anyway, we decided we would contact KLM by other means to express our wishes.

  We tried contacting KLM by telephone and social media but to no avail.

Since we didn’t hear anything from KLM and were unable to reach them, we decided to go to their office at Schiphol the next day, July 25. We had to stand in a long line at the KLM counter. While standing in line a member of the KLM staff mailed our wishes to the department. Nevertheless we remained standing in the line to know for sure that we would be getting what we had requested. After more than 7 hours in queue, KLM sent an email with our new tickets. To our surprise the group was not only split, but was also put on indirect flights to Ghana. This was not acceptable so we sent them a WhatsApp expressing our dissatisfaction. We also informed them that we are almost at the counter and would like to discuss the possibilities personally.

  After more than 8 hours in line we finally reached the counter and again told them our wishes. Since KLM had nothing else to offer and we wouldn’t make it for my sister’s birthday party, we all decided to cancel our flight to Ghana. We were sent off with instructions to fill in an online form. We were also told that our suitcases would be delivered to our residences. We understood that it was also possible to go to “Arrivals” and inquire about our suitcases but since we were so tired we decided to go the following day.

  Friday, July 26, we went to Schiphol to get our suitcases, since we had cancelled everything. To our surprise, shock and frustration they told us that our suitcases had already been loaded on the plane that would be leaving to Ghana in two hours. We asked them to take the suitcases off the plane. After many calls were made, we were told that they will not be able to take our suitcases off the plane, but we would receive them in a few days. It is so remarkable that this can be done for passengers that board late and for us, who are no longer going to Ghana, it was not possible. My suitcases were on their way to Ghana instead of ME. Yes my suitcases were more fortunate than I. #UNATTENDEDSUITCASESONTRAVEL

  We were asked to fill in reports. I gave them my address but since they couldn’t find SXM in the system, they decided to put Aruba. We requested them to call first to find out where to deliver my suitcases because I was leaving the Netherlands on August 7. Now here I am two weeks later back on my sweet St. Maarten not having executed #YearoftheReturntoGhana. Meanwhile my suitcases, I assume, are still in Ghana. Do hope they are enjoying themselves as much as I would have, had I made it to Ghana. Only one of the 11 suitcases was found and delivered albeit after more than a week. We’ve been in contact with KLM every single day and the expected return date of the luggage is unknown. KLM can’t provide us with proper answers.

  In this digital era it’s unbelievable that suitcases are lost or not traceable. Waste of the baggage labels! KLM and Schiphol, you have proven that you can’t handle a crisis! I could have saved approximately $1,000 going to Ghana via the USA but I wanted to travel with the family. Thank God I did go via the Netherlands else I would be in Ghana all alone. God is great. #EVERYTHINGHAPPENSFORAREASON.

M. Blijden