We’ll find your missing luggage, Mr. Canfield … eventually

Patrick Canfield recently flew from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.

His luggage did not.

After the plane landed, he headed for baggage claim. He waited for an hour, but to no avail; his luggage did not pop out and make its trip around the baggage carousel. Canfield filed a report, and Turkish Airlines told him it would be delivered in a few days.

A few days later, with no bag in sight, Canfield called the airline. Again, they told him it would be delivered in a few days. “Repeat ad nauseum,” Canfield says, totally frustrated. Turkish Airlines continued to tell him that they were looking into it.

Yes, this is the column where we ask you if we should get involved in a case. Scroll to the bottom for the poll. But first, here’s the rest of the story.

Canfield contacted Turkish again. No reply. Finally, several days later, he marched into one of its offices and complained in person.

That finally yielded a reply. In addition to the usual information, they requested a copy of his boarding pass and baggage tag. Canfield replied that he did not have those items, but that he could provide them with the file reference number on the lost bag report. No answer.

“Apparently, I have to give them the boarding pass and baggage tag to even get an acknowledgement?” Canfield fumes. “Or do I have to go to one of their offices and complain every time I send them an email? Can’t they use the file reference number to identify me? Meanwhile, I’ve had to spend several hundred dollars replacing lost property.”

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Canfield clicked over to the Turkish Facebook page and sent them a private message because he says he wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The reply? They were “looking into it.”

Several days later, they were still looking into it.

According to Turkish Airlines’ website, there’s a process for luggage missing for longer than five days:

For the first five days, the Station Lost & Found Offices are responsible for searching for the lost baggage.

For baggage not found within five days, the PIR (Property Irregularity Report), baggage tag, travel ticket, identity document and request form are obtained and sent to the Baggage Services Management.

In the event that detailed investigations carried out by this department are not successful, the lost baggage file will be evaluated for compensation.

Canfield is upset that his bag is missing, but is also just as frustrated that Turkish Airlines is not responsive. He’d like to feel as if they are doing something to try to locate it and doesn’t have that assurance. On an airlines forum for Turkish Airlines, there are multiple entries of travelers’ accounts of lost luggage, so it is apparently a frequent occurrence. (As is the case with most airlines.)

“Can’t they use the file reference number to identify me?” he wonders.

Since he doesn’t have his boarding pass and baggage tag, the answer is: maybe not.

A former airline employee who worked on airline reservations and ticketing systems reports, “In most airline systems PNRs (Passenger Name Records) are purged (removed) the day after the last segment (generally a flight, but could be car pick up or hotel check-in) has completed. They are then copied to a backup system as data-only (can’t be edited in any way). Precise retention dates vary according to the airline and the regulatory environment(s) in which they work.”

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So the passenger’s information may technically be in the system, but could be difficult to access. Canfield’s experience serves as an important reminder for travelers to always keep their travel documents for a few months after the trip, particularly when there is a problem or issue.

Without his paperwork, will Turkish Airlines continue to search for Canfield’s luggage? If they have his file reference paperwork from the lost luggage report, can it be used to find his bag? Or should we get involved?

Should I take Patrick Canfield's case?

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Christy Wood

Christy Wood is a writer specializing in transportation topics. She lives in Salem, Ore.

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