Playing the blame game after luggage goes missing

Brian Flannery isn’t asking for much. The Missouri travel agent flew to Easter Island for business and his luggage didn’t arrive when he did. It showed up nine days late.

When he asked for compensation for $250 in clothes and toiletries he had to purchase, his airlines started to do what they do best: They played the the blame game.

They’re responsible. No they’re responsible!

Now he wants to know if, after one airline lost the game, the compensation was enough.

Let’s start with the problem. I’ll let Flannery explain:

Just after Christmas, I traveled to Easter Island from the U.S., I checked my baggage with United, and after passing through security, my connecting flight was canceled and I was rerouted on Air Canada to Santiago, then caught my original flight on LAN to Easter Island.

My main piece of luggage did not show up. I filed a claim with LAN and spent an aggravating amount of time contacting all three airlines daily, trying to figure out where my luggage was, and mostly getting wrong or no information.

Flannery opened a case with LAN Airlines, the airline which was responsible for the last leg of his flight to Easter Island and purchased toiletries and clothing items totalling about $ 250 for his business trip to Easter Island. He contacted all three airlines which were involved in his code share flight and continued to stay in touch with LAN Airlines saying:

Both United and Air Canada told me I needed to check with LAN, and LAN told me they had no record of the bag; extremely frustrating. My bag finally arrived on Jan 6, nine days after my arrival on the 27th.

Now I have submitted my clothing and toiletry expenses, which were only the amount of approximately $250, to LAN and they are saying they won’t reimburse because it wasn’t their fault. All of these airlines have been equally horrible to deal with, please advise on what further action I should take.

All three airlines’ websites have pages dealing with lost or delayed luggage, but when it comes to flights on multiple carriers, things get a little fuzzy.

Related story:   Airline freezes passenger's mileage account after "disturbing" number of complaints

Air Canada is clear that, “If you are unable to locate your checked baggage upon arrival, you’ll need to notify a representative of the airline with which your flight terminates. For example, if you flew Air Canada from Halifax to Montreal, then on to Washington with United Airlines, you’ll need to speak to a United Airlines representative.”

United does not address lost luggage when multiple carriers are involved.

LAN Airlines’ English-language web page provides information about lost or delayed baggage, but is silent when multiple carriers are involved.

Flannery contacted all three airlines. Both United and Air Canada told him that compensation must come from the airline with which the flight terminates, LAN Airlines.

LAN Airlines insisted that it had no responsibility since it never received his bag from United.

We wanted to share some of LAN’s emails, but they appear to be written and then run through an online translator. They make zero sense.

Flannery contacted us out of frustration and our advocates got in touch with United. The airline reiterated that the responsibility lies with the final carrier, but it promised to coordinate with LAN. Finally, United contacted Flannery and invited him to submit his expenses for processing with them, with no guarantees that they would reimburse him. United also offered him a $300 voucher and told him he could take his chances with LAN.

Flannery accepted the $300 voucher (in our words, funny money) and decided to drop the matter with United. He is continuing to pursue real money with Lan Airlines.

Related story:   A lengthy flight delay does not equal a free vacation

He still has not received a final response from LAN Airlines. When he spoke to them last week, they promised to resolve his case “within 48 hours,” and he remains hopeful that they will reimburse him for his expenses.

Did Brian Flannery get enough compensation for expenses related to the late delivery of his luggage?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Teri Bergin

Teri Bergin is a Physician Assistant with an oncology and hematology practice in Central Florida. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her daughter, two disobedient dogs and a Bengal Cat.

  • Annie M

    Ordinarily I’d say the voucher is more than the cost, leave it alone, but in this case, with all the aggravation this poor guy has been through, I don’t think he received enough compensation.

  • MarkKelling

    At least the amount he is requesting is a reasonable dollar figure and not overinflated like what we have seen here in the past.

    I feel that it doesn’t matter who actually has your bag, the airline you purchase your ticket from should be responsible for providing you reimbursement for necessary items if your bag gets lost or delayed. Let them fight it out among themselves as to who is ultimately responsible for the amount paid out, the passengers should never have to do the fighting. This might eliminate some of the code sharing that some people here don’t like.

  • Alan Gore

    A voucher is worth anything if and only if the passenger will book that carrier again within the chintzy validity period these things have. Small wonder that only 10% of vouchers are ever used, and that’s on domestic airlines that have a reasonable probability of going where you might be headed next.

  • MF

    Playing the ‘numbers game’, if only 10% of PAX use their funny money, then the cost to the airline of issuing it is 10% of face value, ie $30 in this case. If he asked for a $250 reimbursement, then he got $30, hmmm, is this fair?

  • Rebecca

    I hope he files a DOT complaint of LAN doesn’t give him cash reimbursement. That’s outrageous.

  • Lee

    Vouchers are likely to never be used and they know that; I’d hold out for real money – go get ’em!

  • sirwired

    Well, DOT rules clearly put the onus on the final carrier. LAN is responsible for the compensation. If they (LAN) want to chase after United or Air Canada on their own time, that’s their business.

    I wonder if a DOT complaint would go anywhere. LAN is a carrier licensed to fly to the US, but this particular flight did not originate or terminate in the US, so I don’t know how much jurisdiction the DOT has.

  • sirwired

    It’s not clear from the case if this was a code-share itinerary operated on multiple airlines or an interline-agreement itinerary purchased on multiple airlines.

    DOT rules already require the marketing carrier to handle lost luggage claims in the case of codeshared tickets. In the case of an interline ticket, it’s the final airline on the itinerary.

    I don’t know if there are rules on payment for incidentals in the case of a delayed bag. I would think that would be on the final carrier, no matter if it’s codeshared or interline for the simple reason that the marketing carrier (in the case of a codeshare) probably doesn’t have a baggage office at your final destination.

  • Michael__K

    He is owed monetary reimbursement for his incidentals per Article 19 of the Montreal Convention. Per Article 36, his right of action is against the last carrier (which would be LAN).

    The DOT has previously fined Delta and Lufthansa for similar transgressions.

  • Michael__K

    From the Montreal Convention, Article 36:

    “…the passenger or consignee who is entitled to delivery will have a right of action against the last carrier, and further, each may take action against the carrier which performed the carriage during which the destruction, loss, damage or delay took place. These carriers will be jointly and severally liable to the passenger or to the consignor or consignee.”

  • AJPeabody

    Who delivered the bag? LAN. Late, but delivered, so why do they deny responsibility?

  • Bill___A

    As a travel agent, I expect he would know that the last carrier is the one to claim from, assuming the booking was all made in one reservation, with him checking his bag in at one end, picking it up at the other end etc.Whether LAN saw the bag or not, it is up to them to deal with the other carriers involved.

  • judyserienagy

    He’s due proper compensation, but a $300 voucher is a very good deal. LAN will just keep stonewalling him.

    I’m wondering, tho, WHO delivered the bag 9 days later? Is it possible to trace that paperwork back to see if LAN did indeed have control of his bag? This might be a very timely piece for Chris to unravel, tho.

  • Fishplate

    Does your ticket indicate that there is a bag checked? Would LAN even know to expect a bag that didn’t show up at the flight’s origin?

  • jim6555

    Air tickets usually don’t mention the number of bags checked unless the baggage fees are prepaid.

  • cscasi

    I would think with the baggage claim stub, the airline can trace it back and see what happened, where. However, I know that sometimes the airlines change the bag tag(s) when a bag is shifted over to the airline (like Air Canada). It can be a real mess. Where (under whose control) did the bag go astray? All I can say is that this is a mess.

  • Fishplate

    So how is the last airline even supposed to know that there’s a bag they need to look for? You report it, they never received it, they notify the preceding carrier, and their job is done.

  • Éamon deValera

    I don’t agree with accepting the voucher and then trying for more compensation for the same loss. If you don’t think the voucher covers it then don’t accept it. It is wrong to be unjustly enriched – paid twice.

    That said, isn’t the responsibility with the plating carrier, the carrier that wrote the ticket. Who cares what they say, sue them.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.