Hey Delta, is this enough compensation for a lost passport?

By | November 25th, 2015

Linwood Brown has one of those jobs that some of us would die for. Recently, his work paid for him to fly Delta’s new first class, Delta One, from LAX to Taipei.

As part of his ticket, Brown could use the exclusive premium check-in experience at LAX.

And that’s where his trip went off the rails.

It’s supposed to be a carefree check-in, where you sit in a lounge while Delta’s employees take care of your paperwork.

But Brown’s experience was anything but carefree. Delta lost his passport.

Yes, you read that correctly: Delta took his passport as part of the check-in and lost it. They think they may have given it to another customer, but they can’t be sure. Delta knows they received his passport because they checked him in for the flight.

As a result, Brown’s employer had to send someone to Taipei at the last minute to cover Brown’s work assignment. His employer also paid to expedite a new passport for him since his job requires that he travel overseas.

Delta’s offer? A $100 gift card.

If only Brown was an elite in Delta’s frequent flier program, they would have taken care of him. That’s what Delta’s marketing department would tell you.

But wait. Brown is a Diamond elite in their program, for three years running. It doesn’t get any higher than that.


No offer from Delta to cover the 20,000 qualification miles that he lost when he couldn’t fly. No offer for the 60,000 award miles.

No offer from Delta to cover any ID theft that might occur since they gave his passport to a third party.

Related story:   "I was rudely told 9,000 points is really not much"

I’ll admit that last one sounded like a little bit of a stretch until Brown reported that someone had attempted to hack his checking account twice since his passport went missing.

Connected or just bad luck? Who knows?

Brown seems to be a poster child for our help, but what should we ask for?

Here’s what Brown requested we seek: “I’d like to let the public know about the sloppy procedures at the LAX Delta One check-in area that lost my passport (what if I was from Taipei and headed home? I would have been stuck in the U.S. indefinitely), and I’m looking for proper compensation for what I think is a major [screw-up] by Delta Air Lines.”

OK, so we’ve achieved the first objective, but how much should Delta owe for consequential damages in this case?

Brown’s employer paid for his new passport, but Brown received a disciplinary letter in his personnel file and was unable to work, or get paid, until he was able to reapply for the visas he needed to enter China and India.

This was a simple mistake with large secondary effects. For how much should Delta be responsible?

At a minimum, Delta should pay for Brown or his employer’s out-of-pocket expenses. You would also think that Delta would do something a little more generous than $100 for one of their Diamond elites.

Is a $100 gift certificate enough compensation for a lost passport?

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  • sirwired

    Yes, Delta should reimburse his employer’s out-of-pocket expenses; it baffles me that they think vouchers are the way to go here. Really, they should also be offering up at least vouchers for the days he couldn’t work (cash would be better, of course.)

    And they should also be sending a letter to his boss fully taking the blame for the problem. (On another note, assuming his employer believes him, why on earth did they put a reprimand in his file? What a terrible place to work…)

    If Delta won’t cough up the goods, I think this is a circumstance in which a suit in Small Claims (for the lost wages) would be perfect.

    Lastly, I’m not a big fan of the idea that his elite status should have any relevance here. If Delta did something similar to somebody traveling on a consolidator fares, they should receive the same compensation.

  • AAGK

    Disciplinary letter? For what? Are you saying Delta didn’t even compensate the employer for the ticket? Obviously they should but it does not seem the employer has asked for reimbursement. This is the worst kind of security breach and agents and passport handling procedures need to be retrained. It never occurred to me something like this could even happen. It is disheartening to learn that these agents aren’t paying very close attention.

  • whatup12

    A few things:
    1) There is a higher status than Diamond, but it is not made public
    2) I also fly a lot. Sometimes up front and sometimes not. And I don’t mind the One service for the meal that they give in the lounge, etc. That said, I would NEVER give up my passport as they will inherently care less about it than I do.
    3) This is a painful scenario, but not sure what he wants from Delta–maybe throw him some miles (which he likely doesn’t need) or a little more Delta Funny money (which for someone who travels that much for work is also likely not that helpful to him). Or maybe just a really big apology….

  • sirwired

    Cash payment for lost wages would not be out of line here. This is beyond normal operational screwups like a maintenance delay or a lost bag that airlines (correctly) don’t have to pay much in the way of damages for.

  • mbods2002

    What kind of employer put a disciplinary note in an employee’s file for something that clearly was not his fault? For some reason this bothers me more than anything else! Yes, OK, and the measly $100 gift certificate is just plain insulting…

  • MF

    Delta should make the pax ‘whole’, and I don’t believe that Delta will do that without a lot more heat applied. Lost wages, damage to his reputation with his employer, etc. are, I believe, above the pay grade of consumer advocacy, and may only be resolved with the help of an attorney. I hope I’m wrong!

  • Annie M

    All out of pocket expenses should be reimbursed and they should also pay for a credit monitoring service fir the next 5 years for passenger.

  • NotThatBrooklynGuy

    Delta took the passport. They are responsible for all reasonable consequences when they lost it.
    Pay for a new expedited passport? Yes.
    Pay for all new visas expedited? Yes.
    Some additional compensation for the inconvenience? Yes
    Pay for lost wages? No. His employer should have a soul.

    Also, Linwood Brown needs to look for a new employer. His is being treated like a child by getting a disciplinary letter in his ‘permanent record’. Someone that you trust to fly from the US to Taipei to conduct business should not be getting tardy notes put in his file like someone not showing up for work or showing up drunk.

  • jml49

    There was absolutely no reason for him to surrender his passport to Delta – he needs to show it to check in, but he had done that so for what purpose did he allow them to hold on to his passport? Their ‘bad’ for losing his passport – his ‘bad’ for allowing them to have possession of it.

  • Alan Gore

    So Delta not only flipped a small funny-money voucher at him by way of compensation but could cause him to lose his job? Why was it necessary for him to hand over his passport as part of a checkin, anyway?

    I see a juicy lawsuit at this point, rather than anything Delta do.

  • Rebecca

    I’m guessing a full fare first class ticket is refundable? We don’t often see those here, usually it’s a nonrefundable ticket that passengers are looking to be reimbursed for. I thought the same thing, then I remembered cash was paid for a first class ticket, no upgrades with miles, special offers, etc

  • whatup12

    I hear you and would be interested to see if they actually cough up cash…it would be harder to prove in terms of what was actually lost, but do hear you.

  • Rebecca

    Some corporate hr policies are ridiculous. I had a friend that was actually fired after she called off several times in a month. Her child was hospitalized and one of her parents died a couple weeks apart. Despite the fact that she always showed up on time and had only taken 1 sick day in the past year, their attendance system was based on “points” and termination was automatic after so many points. It didn’t matter the reason, and FMLA didn’t qualify as it wasn’t enough days in a row. So they actually fired her.

  • Richard Smith

    It sounds like Linwood Brown may have been a contractor as opposed to an employee — Contractors get paid for the work they do, but don’t get paid when they can’t work. The contracting firm acts as a clearinghouse for payrole and other expenses.

    That said, I try to never give up my passport. Some hotels have asked (most notably in Russia, where you were required to register with the police if you stayed for more than three days — and hotels were allowed to take care of that), I let them copy the information but I have not relinquished the document.

  • Obi Won Kanobi

    He should sue the hell out of them.

  • sirwired

    Except a contractor doesn’t really have a “file” or a “disciplinary record”. And the employer wouldn’t have paid for a new passport either if he was a contractor.

  • Tom McShane

    What is the name of the higher status Hope Diamond Eliter? Unobtainium Elitest?

  • Tom McShane

    Yoou won’t find a completely innocent traveler here. They are always guilty of SOMETHING. You can tell it by the shifty look in their eyes.

  • Grant Ritchie

    “Missed it by thisius muchius.”

  • whatup12

    360 Club…

  • whatup12

    no real criteria–some level of MQD (likely 50K+) and MQM (250K+) but also depends on where home airport is. I think for those around ATL, it could easily be 75k-100k MQD needed!

  • JenniferFinger

    Delta needs to reimburse Brown for the lost wages and actually apologize to him. And Brown needs a new job where he isn’t subject to “disciplinary” action against him like a school kid for what wasn’t his fault.

  • Tom McShane

    Well that’s kinda a disappointment.

  • sirwired

    Just be pleased he was able to tell you at all… could have been:

    “It’s called the HELLLPPP!!! THEY’RE COMING TO GET ME!!! I’VE LOST ALL MY FF POINTS!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!&^#%##&$*!

    NO CARRIER”

    (That last is a joke if you’ve ever used a modem to access something other than the Internet)

  • DCMarketeer

    I would also add that Delta should pony up for a year or two of identity theft protection for him.

  • Laura616

    I wonder what happened to the person who actually lost the passport? I wonder if this was deliberate? The fact that Brown has had a problem with his bank account is very suspicious. Whatever happened Delta should be ashamed and so should the company this guy works for.

  • whatup12

    I think just like the program….basically gives you Porsche rides for tight connections in ATL.

  • whatup12

    Yep, sounds something like trying to rebook flights through skype connections in far flung countries when cancelled. Just when you are getting somewhere and they have bounced back and forth between you and their own internal reservations agent or manager….it starts slowly cutting out as you try desperately to move/reposition phone and then…click. And then we start over…

  • whatup12

    Well, actually my employer (a university) does keep a file on consultants and would note bad experiences, etc. Separately, we do sometimes take care of things like this for consultants if there for us, but depends on the situation and what legal says…

  • Jeff W.

    One can be an employee of a contracting/consulting firm. Many such employees are paid on an hourly scale. No work, no pay.

    The contracting firm could certainly put in a note in their files regarding the incident. Presumably because that firm needed to send a second person last minute. Probably at a higher cost that the firm had to absorb. Can’t chage the client because he (or Delta) lost his passport.

  • Jeff W.

    Delta gas to throw much more than a $100. As a diamond member, that is even more insulting. Diamond or not, that amount is a slap in the face. It costs more than $100 just to replace a passport.

  • judyserienagy

    A hundred dollar voucher for THIS? Dumb and dumber must be running Delta. The lounge people sometimes want a passport to “check us in” … I thank you for posting this, never again will I let the thing out of my sight. I hope the victim makes a LONG list of expenses and aggravations … once someone at Delta wakes up, they’ll no doubt be eager to make this up to their Diamond person.

  • sirwired

    I didn’t say more valuable passengers aren’t worth more. I’m saying that in a clear case such as this where Delta has made such an unmitigated screwup, any passenger (no matter how cheap their ticket) would be worth, at the least, cash for the lost passport, and at least vouchers for the missed wages.

  • random_observation_source

    $100 is insultingly small, and the reprimand is ridiculous, but I’m stuck at the part where he didn’t get his passport back immediately after checking in. The check-in agents typically only need the passports for much less than a minute, which is plenty of time to hand it over and keep an eye on it.

    Even if he took his eyes off the passport for some reason or another, wouldn’t the FAs or gate personnel be able to check with the passengers already on the plane that they correctly possessed their own passports? (i.e. an announcement over the aircraft PA to the effect of “please show your passport to the FA and if you find an extra one, no worries, just hand it in”)

  • AMA

    In general I think passengers should be responsible for their own stuff, but in this case I think Brown should sue Delta’s ass off.

  • RightNow9435

    Exactly my feelings on this issue…..that disciplinary letter outdoes any shortcomings in re imbursement from Delta in “wronging” the OP. Sounds like a terrible place to work if they blame their employees for things totally out of the employee’s control.

  • Tricia K

    At her last job, my daughter saw a coworker fired after her pocketbook got stolen with some work related papers in it. They said she should have been more careful.

  • Tricia K

    Might have given it someone else? In this time of rampant identity theft, an employee giving a document like a passport to anyone other than its rightful owner should be the biggest concern here. Yes, the employer was a jerk for putting the letter in his file, but Delta should have to pay for at least a year of Lifelok coverage (or something comparable) as well as reimburse him for his financial losses.

  • cscasi

    That’s why they gave him such a paltry amount, right?

  • BMG4ME

    “If only Brown was an elite in Delta’s frequent flier program, they would
    have taken care of him. That’s what Delta’s marketing department would
    tell you.” That comment is totally irrelevant and smacks of “entitlement- resentment”, especially since he is an elite as you pointed out.

    $100 is way too little. The fact he was flying First Class means that this was a very important deal, which Delta may well have messed up for his company. They should be giving him a lot more than that, as well as writing a letter of apology to the CEO of the company and to the customer.

    I understand it was a mistake. I don’t think any individual should be punished but Delta needs to take responsibility in a more meaningful way.

  • cscasi

    If the Delta One check in people think they may have given Brown’s passport to someone else, then they should have the passport of the “someone else” sitting there unclaimed. They should have been able to check where that “someone else” passenger was and see if he had the wrong passport. If the flight with that person had already departed, they could have called down line to the arriving station and had someone check with that person when he arrived. Failing that, they just lost it; no matter how. Nonetheless, Brown got totally screwed over and Delta needs to do more in the way of recompense.

  • Extramail

    I believe I’d start looking for another job if this is how a company treats you for something completely out of your control. My question is: did he have to give up his passport? And, delta, if I paid cash, I want cash back.

  • Byron Cooper

    There is something wrong with this story. The passenger should be presenting his passport to TSA on the outbound flight and going through security himself. There was no need for him to give up his passport or let it out of his sight. I wonder whether the person who took the passport worked for Delta. I think there was at least some contributory negligence here by the passenger.

  • Lindabator

    Need to clear things up – you state no 20000 miles for the trip he did not take (normal), no 60000 miles for the award ticket – so this was a frequent flier ticket???? Seems we are getting a chopped up story, and I would prefer to hear the entire story before I comment

  • Lindabator

    I know – sounds like there are some missing pieces here — and the writer eludes to lost mileage of 60000 – so was this an award ticket? Hmm….

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