Maybe there are too many Weiners on this flight

By | February 27th, 2016

Ellen Weiner contacted us after eight frustrating months of being ignored by Alitalia. She spent 10 days in Israel last year, traveling from Miami to Tel Aviv with a stop in Rome. Along the way, one of her bags went missing.

She eventually got her bag back — seven weeks after returning to the United States. And now she wants reimbursement for expenses incurred when she was without her suitcase.

But this isn’t your typical missing baggage case. You see, Alitalia got confused. Really confused. And actually, we’re not sure they’ve stopped being confused. We’ll get to that in a second.

To understand this case, we have to start at the beginning, in Miami. As Weiner sat waiting for her flight to Rome, she noticed something terribly wrong with her boarding passes: Alitalia checked her in as the wrong passenger. Turns out there were two people named E. Weiner on the flight from Miami to Rome.

“While the staff scrambled to correct the issues with my ticket and boarding passes, they said they’d board the plane and find my two bags,” Weiner writes. “They gave me new boarding passes with my new baggage claim tickets attached.”

When she arrived in Tel Aviv, the second suitcase she paid to check was nowhere to be found. She reported the bag missing and carried on with her trip.

While she was out touring the city, her friends informed her that her bag arrived. Weiner thought it was a joke, because they texted her a picture of the bag, which wasn’t her bag at all.

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Yup. Alitalia confused the two passengers at check-in, and then compounded the error by failing to properly reroute their respective bags.

“The mother of the teenage girl whose bag I had received called my friends and asked them not to release the bag back to the airline.”

The airline delivered Weiner’s bag to the other Weiner, who refused it, turning it back over to Alitalia.

As is the case with all missing bags, this suitcase contained most of Weiner’s clothing and essentials for her trip. She only had a pair of shoes and a few outfits with her. “Certainly not enough for 10 days in Israel,” she explains.

When luggage is lost or delayed, airlines should reimburse the passenger for needed clothing and items while the passenger was without the bag. Some airlines make it easier than others, but in this case, it should be really easy. Alitalia is headquartered in Europe, where consumer-friendly regulations known as the European Passenger Bill of Rights, in concert with the Montreal Convention of 1999, establish rules for compensation in situations like this. In line with European rules for lost and delayed baggage, Weiner is absolutely entitled to compensation from Alitalia for the delayed bag, which is capped at roughly $1,400. (This amount is a rough estimate because the amount is actually calculated in a fluid International Monetary Fund multiplier called Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs.)

So if consumer-friendly rules govern European carriers, including Alitalia, why has the airline ignored Weiner’s claim for the last eight months? Could it be too embarrassed to ‘fess up to the massive mix-up — which, incidentally, has much larger security implications? Or could it be that Alitalia doesn’t even know who she is?

Seven weeks after her return to South Florida, the mother of the other passenger called Weiner to say that Alitalia had located Weiner’s missing bag. The other passenger’s mother gave Weiner the name of the third-party company handling missing bags for the airline, and at long last, Weiner and her bag were reunited.

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Weiner has asked us to help seek reimbursement for replacement clothing and essentials, totaling $799.

Should we take Ellen Weiner’s case?

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  • Reporter1

    Seriously, how could anyone vote “no”? Also that headline made me laugh out loud!

  • joycexyz

    Why would someone have a reservation with only a first initial? I can’t believe her passport was issued that way. I’m not surprised about the mixup.

  • Lee

    This is the very definition of incompetence; shameful that an advocate even has to spend time on this – they should pay her. Yes, please take this case.

  • Lee

    Maybe that is not how it was issued, I am guessing it is not wanting to post the full name of a person asking for their help. The last name is common enough but adding the first full name would be inappropriate here.


    What a mess and it lies solely with the person checking Ms. Weiner in at the airport. Age information had to be entered to issue the ticket and that was one thing they missed. I am sure check-in missed at least a couple other flags as well. I cannot see how this happened unless every bit of information was identical.
    And, as an aside, if the mother of the teen told the people NOT to give the luggage back to the airline why did she not tell her daughter to keep Ellen Weiner’s bag as well? Not that it is related to whether or not to advocate for Ms. Weiner, but I just find that really odd.

  • MF

    The request for compensation is too low. This PAX has spent considerable time & trouble dealing with an intransigent carrier, and should be compensated for this as well. Actual expenses would be the last fall back negotiating position.

  • Alan Gore

    Take the case, but fat chance getting anything out of Alitalia, the “Avoid At All Costs” European airline. Rather than being officially malevolent, like Spirit, they just can’t do anything right. If you did get compensation, they would undoubtedly send it to the wrong person.

  • joycexyz

    The beginning of the article used her full name, then used a first initial and the last name to illustrate how she and the other passenger were identified identically by the airline. Whether or not this is her real name is irrelevant. Were the two of them truly ticketed using a first initial? In self defense I think one should use the entire name, including a middle name, on the passport and when purchasing tickets, particularly if the last name is not unusual.

  • cscasi

    Then should annotate that in the article, to avoid any confusion. Having said that, we all know that the airlines require full names on tickets; that the passenger’s accepted identification and name on the ticket must match. So, who knows what Alitalia did or did not do.
    Nonetheless, they need to pay this lady’ claim, NOW!

  • Carchar

    There is a possibility that whomever the daughter was staying with (group leader? front desk hotel agent? relatives?) refused the bag.

  • judyserienagy

    GREAT HEADLINE, super illustration! Why on earth would she have tix, ID and a boarding pass with only her first initial? Very strange.

  • Bill

    Because she is asking for way to much. $799 for 10 days is ludicrous.

  • Stephanie Mollohan

    I once had a bag get lost with American Airlines. Even after it was found and in my possession, I continued for a week to get automated phone calls once a day at 10am letting me know that my lost bag was very important to them and they were doing everything they could to locate it. If the airline can’t keep track of the luggage, then yes they should pay the costs associated, please take this case.

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