We hate to let down our loyal readers who ask us for help, but we couldn’t help Shulamit Gartenhaus with her request for reimbursement by Aeroflot.
Gartenhaus’ story is yet another reminder to always get a business’ promise of assistance and its agents’ names in writing. Otherwise, as Gartenhaus found out the hard way, you have no leverage in holding the business to its promises, which can result in the business stiffing you.
Gartenhaus’ granddaughter flew Aeroflot last year from Tel Aviv, Israel, to New York via Moscow. Her luggage contained various items she needed to attend a wedding and summer camp. Aeroflot lost her luggage for 11 days, located it in Düsseldorf, Germany, and returned it in damaged condition. Gartenhaus filed a lost luggage claim with Aeroflot, whose agent told her that she could be reimbursed for up to $100 per day of expenses for the days the luggage was missing.
To Gartenhaus’ credit, she did ask the agent to verify this promise in writing. But the agent replied: “You don’t need that, we will honor it!” And Gartenhaus did not get her name. Relying on the promise, she then spent $1,100 to replace her granddaughter’s missing items.
Aeroflot offered $62 as compensation for the damaged suitcase, but ignored Gartenhaus’ request for reimbursement of the $1,100. “I spent hours trying to get hold of an Aeroflot person to even talk to in addition to my emails,” says Gartenhaus.
Gartenhaus spent seven months emailing Aeroflot. After asking for original receipts, Aeroflot’s New York office told her that her case was the problem of its Israeli office. The Israeli office also asked her for original receipts. She also used our executive contacts for Aeroflot to escalate her case and contacted the airline’s CEO.
But the only answer she ever received to any of her inquiries was a terse “We will investigate.”
Gartenhaus then contacted our advocacy team for assistance: “I sure hope you can help me. You do a wonderful service, as I have been following you for years!”
Aeroflot’s rules of passenger and baggage carriage provide that
10.1.3. The liability of Aeroflot PJSC for loss of baggage, missing contents or damage to baggage, as well as the passenger’s carry-on items, is as follows:…
For international flights the liability of Aeroflot PJSC for faults during the carriage of baggage accepted for carriage without a declared value is limited to 20 US Dollars per 1 kilogram of baggage….
10.3.3. Time and procedure for making a claim against Aeroflot PJSC with regard to international air carriage
If baggage is damaged during international air carriage, the person entitled to claim the baggage shall submit the appropriate written notice to Aeroflot PJSC no later than within seven days after receipt of the baggage. In the event of a delay in baggage delivery, the claim must be submitted within twenty-one days after the baggage was delivered to the person entitled to receive it.
In the event of baggage loss, a claim may be submitted to Aeroflot PJSC within eighteen months of the day of the aircraft’s arrival at the destination point or the day when the aircraft should have arrived or the day air carriage was completed.
10.3.4. Documents required to submit a claim
For baggage damage: application specifying the amount of damage; Property Irregularity Report; baggage tag; receipt confirming the value of the damaged baggage. In the absence of the receipt, provide a photograph of the damaged baggage and report the brand, item number, year of purchase; receipt for repair (if the baggage is subject to repair) or a report stating that it cannot be repaired. In the absence of a receipt, the baggage value shall be determined based on the average price of similar goods.
In the event of baggage loss: passenger’s application with a list of items that were in the baggage and specifying their value; Property Irregularity Report; baggage tag.
In the event of a delay in delivering baggage for an international flight, the above documents should be attached with documents (receipts, invoices) confirming the costs incurred in connection with the delay in delivering the baggage.
In addition, Article 22 of the Montreal Convention provides that “In the carriage of baggage, the liability of the carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights [approximately $1,366 as of this writing] for each passenger.”
Since Gartenhaus’ claim falls within the Montreal Convention limits of liability, Aeroflot should have reimbursed her for the missing contents. And its agent should have guaranteed in writing, as Gartenhaus requested, the promise that it would reimburse her at the rate of $100 per day.
But because Gartenhaus got neither that promise nor the agent’s name in writing, she has no support for that promise. And although our advocates reached out to Aeroflot on her behalf, we had no more luck than she had in securing reimbursement for the $1,100 in expenses that she incurred while relying on the promise.
We suggested that Gartenhaus file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) against Aeroflot. As our advocate pointed out to Gartenhaus, “While [the DOT] may not be able to force the airline to provide compensation, they do have the authority to require them to provide substantive response to your complaint, and may even be able to sanction them if they fail to follow DOT regulations.”
Gartenhaus has indicated that she will pursue this course of action, and follow up with small claims court if it doesn’t work. We wish her the successful outcome that we were not able to obtain through our advocacy.