Thursday, 10 March 2016

7 On Your Side: "When an airline loses your luggage"

I was interviewed on KGO-TV news in San Francisco last night in a "7 On Your Side" feature about "lost" airline luggage. I think they did a good job on the story (congrats to producer Randall Yip behind the camera). But as usual, there was more to be said about the subject than would fit in the television segment.

For starters, this incident wasn't really about "lost" luggage, but about delayed luggage. Most "lost" airline baggage is only temporarily misplaced, misdirected, or not loaded on the right plane, and shows up within a day or two. If it hasn't been found by then, it probably never will be. Possible causes: The bag was destroyed in the baggage handling machinery, all the labels and tags got torn off and the airline couldn't find the owner's name inside the bag, or the bag broke and the airline couldn't find the owner's name in the loose contents (or some or all of the contents of your broken bag got mixed with the contents of other broken bags).

The case investigated by "7 On Your Side" was quite unusual in that the missing bags turned up several weeks later. According to the international treaties that govern liability for lost, damaged, or delayed checked baggae on international flights, if your luggage doesn't arrive for 21 days, you are entitled to treat it as lost and file a claim for the full value (up to the airline's liability limit, which depends on which countries you are flying between).

There's nothing you can do to prevent your checked luggage from being delayed (common) or lost or destroyed (rare, but it happens). Carry essentials like prescription medications in your carry-on baggage, and always be prepared to do without your checked bags for a couple of days. Label your bag on the inside, in case the tags get torn off by malfunctioning baggage-handling machinery. To the extent possible, include a name tag or business card inside each separate enclosure or case within your luggage, to maximize the changes that you'll get at least the more important items back even if the outer bag is destroyed. Think about whether any item you check will survice rough handling, including being thrown, dropped, left out on the ramp in the rain, or having other heavy bags piled on top of it. I once saw one of my pieces of luggage get to the mouth of a baggage chute at LAX, snag on the motorized belt, and get torn to pieces in front of me (but out of my reach), spilling the contents loose onto the baggage-claim carousel to be conveyed past the rest of the waiting passengers for their inspection and entertainment. I gathered up my heap of belongings as best I could, and Malaysian Airlines gave me a replacement suitcase on the spot.

Airline practices for payment of claims for lost, damaged, or delayed baggage vary. In most cases, if you ask politely, the airline will give you a small cash allowance for essentials (although they aren't required to). Reimbursement for the rest of the value of the loss typically takes several months. Depending on the airline and the amount of your claim, you may be asked for receipts or other evidence of the value of the missing or damaged items. You aren't likely to have kept and be able to find the receipts for everything in your luggage. But a few quick photos with your phone of the contents of your bag, after you've packed it and just before you close it up, will be helpful as evidence of what was in your bag and as a reminder to yourself of what items to list on a claim form if your bag disappears.

Special insurance for lost, damaged, or delayed luggage is generally overpricesd. The fine print typically excludes most valuables, and the amount of coverage may not be much more than the amount the airline is already responsible for. Travel insurance may also duplicate coverage you already have, which is both a waste of money and nuisance if you have a claim and the two insurance companies have to agree on which coverage is "prinmary" before either will pay. Surprisingly, some homeowner's or "umbrella" insurance policies cover your belongings -- including luggage you have checked with an airline -- even when you are away from home.

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 10 March 2016, 11:06 (11:06 AM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I flew from Dacca to Hong Kong in May 1994. I waited for a week after filing a missing baggage claim. On the day I flew to SFO the Bangladesh Biman rep. offered me $200 though the IATA rule was for $20 times 20 kilos =$400. I figured he was going to put $200 in his pocket. I refused to accept this ripoff. I wrote a complaint to the airline headquarters. I never got a response or a dime. I had a Sony video camera and another $1200 worth of gear in my pack.

Posted by: Jerry Jackman, 10 March 2016, 19:50 ( 7:50 PM)
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