Huffpost Travel
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Suzanne Aaronson Headshot

A New Twist on 'Luxury': Respect for One's Time, Comfort & Feelings

Posted: Updated:

Sunday realizations:

This past Saturday night I headed from my house to JFK to catch the last flight to London. I have business here in London all week so I flew in a day early to see old friends and adjust to jetlag a bit.

All seemed streamlined and simple. The airport was quiet and smooth running, the lounge was practically empty -- the flight even left a few minutes early! I flew business class on British Airways and I checked-in a medium and a small sized bag.

That dreaded sinking feeling is one we all get when we realize our luggage has not arrived, as nearly all passengers clear the belt and walk off to start their days. The BA Help Desk reads at the top: "We are here to help". The gentleman who I spoke with entered my baggage claim data rather like a robot would, offering no words of advice or support, no apology. He was only able to confirm that my bags were not in the system -- not a good sign. He sent me on my way with a claim number and said, "Check the website to track your bag!" (Enthusiastically, as if it was a new invention and BA was on the cutting edge...)

Over the last decade, I've averaged 2 trips a month, both domestic and abroad. I've once before had my bags go missing and considered myself lucky for just the single occurrence. This week I'm in London for business meetings and to co-host the "Luxury Briefing" conference. Not unexpectedly, my bags with the clothing I'd chosen to wear in front of 300 people on stage 2 days in a row were of particular importance to me.

I left the airport very concerned knowing that January is off-season in stores. The Winter Collection is on sale and the Summer Collection is inappropriate for January in London.

Cut to the good part of my day:
I arrived for my stay at one of Europe's most quietly celebrated hotels: The Connaught (less obvious fanfare than its two gorgeous, classic sisters: Claridges & The Berkeley).

Manager Peter Barnes greeted me and immediately asked, "What's wrong?" (He'd never met me before -- it was that obvious). I explained the situation and from there both he and the very helpful concierges on duty (Tony & Andrew) were my callers, trackers, ears and researchers making every attempt possible to help -- and all the more important, making me feel understood and supported (what every woman wants, right?!)

I had literally NOTHING. Peter whisked me down to their gorgeous new Aman Spa, where all the basic essentials seemed to magically arrive from various staff so I could shower, freshen up and change in part. He insisted that I have a relaxing massage with the very sought after therapist named Igor. It was one of the most effective, special, relaxing treatments I've ever experienced anywhere.

Cut back to British Airways (who used to provide excellent, professional service):
For 36 hours the website noted nothing other than "bags not found". Every attempt to speak to a real person was waiting endlessly on hold (once I made it 45 minutes before hanging up in frustration) to finally be barked at by a staff member: "We have no information - check the website. We cannot locate the bags in our system but do show that a Ms. Aaronson checked them in at JFK."

Luckily, the bags arrived Monday night. So, the Luxury Briefing audience will not be seeing the latest Spring Collections on Thursday & Friday, rather they will see me, appropriately dressed and feeling as one needs to -- especially on stage -- comfortable in my skin & clothes.

It isn't that my bags went missing that was the worst part. It was the lack of care, unprofessionalism, and poor communication on the part of BA. They were pathetic and, worse, apathetic.

Respect for one's time, comfort & feelings has become in this day and age a Luxury in itself - so it seems. I started questioning whether it is possible that a large company can display those attributes. The answer is yes! Apple, Amazon & The Four Seasons are all great examples. Though it is hard to find many well-known examples because it is most typically only the smaller, better-run companies who are 'human' and engage with their customers in the right way.

The Connaught Hotel is owned by The Maybourne Group (who also own and run Claridges & The Berkeley). Hats off to a smaller size hotel group who really get it right on every turn -- who have the healthy paradigm to be able to grow a bit should they desire to, or just be great as they are.

Next time you're in London if your budget doesn't allow you to stay at one of these three wonderful properties, at least go for high tea, a cocktail, a spa treatment or a meal. All three properties offer truly fabulous & special options for all of the above.
Worth It! many times over.

the-connaught.co.uk

A personal review with insider details from years of experience can be found here:
What's Worth It: The Connaught