Hey Emirates! Where is the wheel from my checked bag?

luggage, baggage, lost, trip, travel, bag, bags, flight, handling, handler
By | April 6th, 2017

Jayant Uppal’s rolling bag won’t roll anymore, and he blames Emirates Airlines for breaking off his wheel in transit. Airlines generally are strict about compensating for “normal wear and tear” of checked bags. Can our advocates help him get his bag rolling again?

Question: I recently traveled from Mumbai to Orlando through Dubai on Emirates Airlines. After picking up my baggage from the belt in Orlando, I noticed that a wheel on my bag was missing.

I filled out a claims form with the gate agent and declined the cash reimbursement. I was told by the station manager that Emirates would repair the bag and that within two hours of leaving the airport I would receive a shipment tracking number. I would have to send my bag in for repairs at the Emirates warehouse.

It has been over a week since my arrival, and I still haven’t received the shipment information. The Emirates office in Orlando is not answering my calls, even after I left them a few voice mail messages. I have called Emirates customer care support twice in the last two days, and their representative said that someone at the Orlando office would give me a call. Even after making a follow-up call, I have not received any communication from the Orlando office. How do I claim reimbursement from the airline, and for how much should the reimbursement be? — Jayant Uppal, Palm Bay, Fla.

Answer: There’s nothing like a good damaged-bag story to get me worked up. I often see baggage workers tossing bags on conveyor belts like they are boxes of rocks. It’s especially painful to leave baggage claim with a damaged bag if you have shelled out $25 or more per checked bag.

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The airlines generally are adamant that they will not compensate for bags damaged through “normal wear and tear.” I’ve been told they can’t be held responsible for objects that protrude from the bag like handles and wheels. It’s a shame they had to make you jump through hoops to get your bag rolling again.

The frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of Emirates’ website states:

If your baggage has been damaged in transit, you need to file a claim before you leave the airport by approaching the nearest Emirates representative or the baggage services desk. This can usually be found in the customs hall, near the baggage claim area.
If you have left the airport without filing a claim, you must contact your local Emirates office within seven days in writing. Occasionally, a bag may be delayed and subsequently delivered in a damaged state. In these cases, please contact Emirates.

Based on the FAQ above you followed the correct procedure by filing your claim immediately, and surely Emirates did not hold up their end of the bargain by failing to contact you within two hours with repair information. The agent did not seem to be concerned that your bag had lost a wheel (and, thus, implying that the damage was not due to “normal wear and tear”), so it seemed reasonable for you to expect that Emirates would repair your bag.

You also had the right to be perturbed by the airline’s failure to respond to your phone calls to the Orlando baggage office.

Our experience with self-advocacy is that you have a much better chance of getting a response by using email rather than complaining via phone. Our website lists emails of executive contacts for all major travel providers, including Emirates’.

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At a certain point, you decided to reach out to our advocates, who contacted Emirates on your behalf.

A representative of Emirates customer service responded:

You have completed a Baggage Inventory Form for the sum of $72, for which you have provided us evidence of purchase. Since [sic] you have provided a proof of your claimed losses incurred as a result of your damaged bag, compensation for your losses is not normally available.

However, as a gesture of goodwill, we are pleased to offer you $65, which represents the value of the bag, minus 10 percent depreciation. Although we have not lived up to your expectations on this occasion, I do hope your recent experience has not marred your impression of the service offered by Emirates and that we will be given another opportunity of serving you in the future.

This was an unexpected happy ending. We hope that you and your bag have many less-damaging trips in the future. Just remember that if there’s ever a problem with your travel experience, we’re here to help.

  • Lindabator

    Should have just taken the cash reimbursement he was first offered

  • sirwired

    Losing a wheel on a $75 bag would not be an unusual occurrence; I totally would have called it “wear and tear”. Heck, it’s common enough on nice bags!… for the better brands of bags, you can often buy replacement wheels so you can put it back into service without throwing away your bag.

  • Michael__K

    That’s NOT “normal wear and tear” (barring evidence of pre-existing damage) and the DOT has already warned airlines that have tried to claim it is.

    The next time your luggage slides off of the baggage carousel with a broken wheel or a missing handle, don’t hesitate to file a claim with your airline.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a notice to the nation’s airlines, telling them that they are obligated to compensate travelers for damage to wheels, straps, zippers, handles and other luggage parts beyond normal wear and tear.

    The department’s aviation enforcement office said it discovered that “certain airlines” have been refusing to accept reports from passengers about damage to these luggage parts, in violation of consumer protection laws. The agency has the power to impose fines of up to $27,500, depending on the violation.

  • sirwired

    You should read the guidance, available here (instead of just an article about it): https://cms.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/Baggage_Guidance_rev_11242015.pdf

    It doesn’t say a thing about evidence of pre-existing damage being needed to exclude a claim; it isn’t in your article either, so I don’t know where you got it from.

    What the guidance actually says: “Although carriers are not required to cover fair wear and tear, damage to handles, straps, wheels and zippers often extends beyond what is appropriately categorized as fair wear and tear resulting from ordinary handling of baggage.”

    The rest of the guidance is warning airlines that they cannot deny a claim merely because of what the failed part is, and that they must permit customers to at least attempt a claim, no matter what the damage is.

    In this case… if the wheel’s been ripped out of the housing, well, yeah, that’d be the airline’s fault. But if the wheel is simply gone, with no other apparent damage? Wheels cracking and falling off, or the cheap rivets used as an axle in a cheap bag breaking is a normal enough thing to happen, even when a bag is never checked.

    Similar goes for zippers… a zipper pull missing? Wear and tear. The zipper looking like they dragged it over the tarmac on the way to the plane? Airline’s fault. Handle scraped up or slightly bent? Wear and tear. Ripped off the bag? Airline’s fault.

  • Michael__K

    Wheels shouldn’t completely fall off during “ordinary handling of baggage” unless there was a prior fault or damage….

    In this case (international flight) the Montreal Convention takes precedence and there is no explicit exception for “wear and tear.” For “damage” not to be covered, the carrier needs to *prove* some sort of inherent defect.

  • sirwired

    Well, wheels DO just fall off during ordinary handling; it happens all the time with cheap luggage, even when the bag is never handled by the airline at all. And there are zero standards for bag construction; I’d call using cheap rivets as a wheel “axle” to be a “prior fault.” I’ve also seen “spinner” bags using slightly-less-cheap rivets as a swivel. Again, if that falls off, I’ts not automatically going to be the airline’s fault. A $75 bag isn’t exactly top-of-the-line…

    If a wheel has just disappeared, there better be some evidence that something awful happened to the bag for me to say that it’s not just a cheap and lousy part that failed. A cracked wheel housing or corner-guard would be a good start.

    And I’m looking at the Montreal Convention now… the section on baggage damage doesn’t say anything about the airline having to prove the baggage was junk. (There is language to that effect in the section on air cargo, but even that section is silent on what constitutes proof.)

  • Rebecca

    The clause you’re citing about “proof” from the Montreal Convention applied to death and injury claims, not baggage. Directly from the actual document:

    Article 21

    Compensation in Case of Death or

    Injury of Passengers
    1. For damages arising under paragraph 1 of Article 17
    not exceeding 100 000 Special Drawing Rights for each
    passenger, the carrier shall not be able to exclude or limit its
    2. The carrier shall not be liable for damages arising under
    paragraph 1 of Article 17 to the extent that they exceed for
    each passenger 100 000 Special Drawing Rights if the
    carrier proves that:
    a) such damage was not due to the negligence or other
    wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants
    or agents; or
    b) such damage was solely due to the negligence or
    other wrongful act or omission of a third party

    Article 17 is ONLY the death/injury of a passenger.

    THIS is the language, again directly from the Montreal Convention, concerning damaged baggage:

    The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of

    destruction or loss of, or of damage to, checked baggage

    upon condition only that the event which caused the
    destruction, loss or damage took place on board the aircraft
    or during any period within which the checked baggage
    was in the charge of the carrier. However, the carrier is not
    liable if and to the extent that the damage resulted from the
    inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage. In the case
    of unchecked baggage, including personal items, the carrier
    is liable if the damage resulted from its fault or that of its
    servants or agents.


  • Rebecca

    The proof has talking about applied ONLY to injury/death claims. There’s no provision for baggage. It’s incorrect. I pasted it in.

    In this case, it’s a $75 bag. Quality is a reason you can deny a claim like this. I’d say that argument could easily be made.

  • Michael__K

    No, don’t tell me what I am citing.
    You missed Article 18 (Damage to Cargo) and Article 20 (Exoneration)

  • sirwired

    Baggage isn’t cargo (which is why there’s a separate section for it), and Article 20 is about personal negligence of the claimant; it has nothing to do with the damaged article itself.

  • Michael__K

    That’s nonsense. Wheels fall off because of slamming forces and other large forces. If there exists a bag that is so fragile that a new undamaged wheel just falls off during ordinary handling, then the carrier should be able prove that model is inherently defective…

    Article 18.2 of the Montreal Convention places the burden of proof squarely on the carrier.

  • sirwired

    Have you SEEN some of the cheap bags available for sale? Some of them are just plain wimpy. (I’m pretty sure some of those bags weigh less than a sturdy knapsack.) I don’t know why you are having trouble conceiving of a $75 bag that simply isn’t built very well.

    And if a wheel missing in the absence of any other significant damage to the bag (like no damage being done to the thing to which the wheel attaches, and contents the escaping harm from these “large forces”) doesn’t constitute decent proof that the axle/swivel or wheel itself was defective, what would?

    Are you saying that for every single claim where they think it’s not their fault they must purchase an identical bag (if one could even be found), and then perform destructive tests on it to see what fails first and how much it took? That’s not a reasonable standard.

    And Article 18 refers to cargo, not baggage, so it’s simply not applicable. The two things are explicitly treated differently. See Article 3 (explicitly about baggage) vs. 4-16 (all of which have to do with cargo)

  • Michael__K

    I’ve traveled a fair amount and I’ve used almost exclusively bags purchased at that price or lower and I’ve NEVER had a wheel just fall off during ordinary handling.

    At the start of this thread you wrote (with no caveats) “you would have totally called it ‘wear and tear'”.

    Recent DOT guidance flatly disagrees with that as a general presumption.

    Further, The Montreal Convention (Article 17 applies if this is baggage) gives the passenger additional protections because even ‘wear and tear’ is not a valid cop out under the Convention– the carrier must SHOW that there was an inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage. Not simply assume that all luggage (or all luggage below some arbitrary price point) is defective.

  • Rebecca

    Cargo is not baggage. The portion you cited, concerning cargo has nothing to do with baggage. They are not the same thing; they are not interchangeable.

    The portion containing baggage says exactly the same as I said. Nowhere does it state that the carrier must prove anything to absolve themselves of liability. It says exactly what I said. “the carrier is not liable if and to the extent that the damage resulted from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.” I copied and pasted the exact same thing.

    If you can show me anywhere it says the carrier must prove any claim concerning damage to baggage, I’ll admit I’m wrong. But it doesn’t. The item you copied is exactly the same i copied. It does not state the carrier must prove anything.

  • sirwired

    So, are you implying that because it’s never happened to you, personally, it must not happen absent abuse? My wife has a decent-ish Travelpro carry-on (I think it was $80-ish? Maybe $120?) and one wheel started to crumble while trundling it down a road, and eventually it broke in two. Even if this had happened while in an airline’s care, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. I wasn’t even annoyed at TravelPro (the repair was easy and cheap enough, and she got several years out of it up to that point. I suppose I might have asked for the $12 in parts for free if the bag was under warranty, but it wasn’t.)

    Consumer Reports used to test luggage by subjecting them to a machine that simulated normal airline handling. Many of the bags failed, often with catastrophic damage. Bags (of all price-points) sometimes failed when they shouldn’t; some bags are better than others; this is not a remarkable statement to make. (They no longer perform luggage tests; they just report on brand survey results. I’m happy to see that the brand of my primary bag, Brigs and Riley, got the top score.)

    And yes, since no other damage to the bag in question has been mentioned (only the wheel is mentioned), I would call that wear and tear (or a defect in construction; take your pick.) The axle or swivel or wheel is inherently a stress point, and it should be beefy enough to not fail while the rest of the bag is free from damage.

    For the guidance, I imagine airlines were using their home-grown wheel exceptions to also refer to the assembly the wheel attaches to. Or using an exception designed for cheap and/or overloaded zippers to get them out of paying for it when the teeth got dragged on the tarmac.

    And could you please quote the language about “show[ing]”? I merely see language about the existence of the “defect, quality, or vice”. Now, certainly this could be a matter for dispute, and the airline can (and should) get slapped by the appropriate regulatory or judicial bodies if they are being unreasonable about it (which is exactly what the DOT did), but that doesn’t mean that they MUST do any specific action to deny a claim. (Though it would probably go a long way to state what the defect is. Like; “The wheel falling off this bag wasn’t our fault because it used a flimsy rivet as an axle.” or “The wheel bracket is made out of thin, easily-torn, plastic” or, “The skinny swivel broke, even though the thing it bolted to shows no evidence of damage.” or “The thin zipper clasp bent, and the zipper pull popped off.”) No mention of “show[ing]” or “proof” is in that section; you are adding in such a requirement on your own.

    And I didn’t say anything about “all” luggage, or “all luggage below a certain arbitrary price point” being defective. I said that there exist poorly-constructed bags, and that $75 isn’t a high-end bag.

    I don’t know for certain if Emirates was in the right here, it should definitely have responded to her queries instead of giving her the silent treatment, but you are stating they must meet some vast burden that neither the law nor common sense says they must adhere to.

  • Michael__K

    Of course I’ve never written or implied it could “never” happen absent abuse…

    I just expect the airline to offer a shred of evidence if they truly believe this. I don’t see any evidence presented here that this *particular* bag was in any way defective. It’s interesting that it survived long enough for the carrier to claim depreciation, and only 1 wheel had a problem, and the baggage agent in Orlando offered cash as opposed to objecting that this was some bad defective model that they constantly observed wheels fell off of…

    “one wheel started to crumble while trundling it down a road, and eventually it broke in two.”

    It’s interesting that you provided an example that is NOT of a wheel falling off and going missing… And it’s also not an example of ordinary airline baggage handling — why would the baggage handlers trundle your luggage on its own wheels down a road?

  • sirwired

    I’m glad to hear that you “NEVER” having a problem with the wheels of your <= $75 bags absent "serious damage" wasn't an implication that it doesn't happen.

    The fact that no other damage was cited other than the wheel falling off is evidence to me of a defective wheel (or axle/swivel.) (Not great evidence; it'd be nice if the OP had sent in a picture of the bag.)

    I don't see what is "interesting" about it depreciating ($10 of depreciation isn't much, nor, for that matter, is that an argument in the bag's favor) or the fact that only one wheel fell off at once. (A bag receiving a little bump or hit on one corner is not exactly unusual during processing, or even during normal use when handling it yourself.)

    You can't imply much from the offer of cash; a small payment is often cheaper than processing a claim (even a rejected one), or handling round-trip shipment for a damaged bag to a repair depot to be repaired, or not. It's a pragmatic solution… (I wonder how much the offer of payment was for? Any decent brand has repair parts available, and wheels don't cost much; unless it was an offer of $5 or something, I would have taken them up on it.)

    For my wife's bag; the wheel did fall off (when it broke in two.) If the wheel had been bumped when it was in an airline's care (via, say, the perfectly normal action of being tossed into a cart), it likely would have fallen off there (or lasted about a minute once I pulled it off the baggage claim.) Again, I wouldn't have thought anything of it; seeing the bag otherwise undamaged would have led me (correctly) to see that the wheel simply failed.

  • jsn55

    I’ve read this pp from Emirates 3 times, I don’t understand what it means:
    “You have completed a Baggage Inventory Form for the sum of $72, for which you have provided us evidence of purchase. Since [sic] you have provided a proof of your claimed losses incurred as a result of your damaged bag, compensation for your losses is not normally available.” Either I’ve taken stupid pills again, or this is an amazing piece of gobbly-gook. I have to agree with Linda, I’d never turn down any offer of settlement that was extended … the alternative is endless aggravation.

  • jsn55

    I absolutely must chime in here on the topic of cost vs quality in luggage. I buy the cheapest bags I can find, always. Some of them last for a dozen trips, some less. But the amount you pay for the bag has little relationship to the quality … in my experience over 30 years of travelling.

  • jsn55

    Do you guys argue like this all the time? Really annoying to us ‘normal’ folk who read and comment on the blog. Isn’t there some way you can communicate privately so we don’t have to read this gibberish forever to get to someone else’s comment?

  • Michael__K

    Did you bother to read the rest of what I wrote? (“If there exists a bag that is so fragile that a new undamaged wheel just falls off during ordinary handling, then the carrier should be able prove that particular model is inherently defective“).

  • PsyGuy

    Baggage is supposed to protect your stuff, its going to absorb damage, that’s how it works. Still nice of Emirates to replace the bag.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Emirates sure was generous. I would not fault Emirates had they claimed normal wear and tear. My personal experience with luggage is you get what you pay for. The $500 luggage is simply built better than the $50 Wal-Mart luggage. The cheaper luggage is not built with the quality or materials that would survive repeated use

  • Fishplate

    So now we have to take pictures of our luggage before we check it and after we pick it up at the carousel?


  • cscasi

    But, we don’t know what the “cash reimbursement” offered was. Would he have gotten more up front or was what he finally got more? Probably not much difference, especially with the hassle to get reimbursed.

  • The Original Joe S

    I always do that.

  • Pegtoo

    Luggage observation: It seems the vast majority of bags offered now are the “spinner” type. (not criticizing the OP, that bag type was not specified). That’s 4 wheels sticking out, ready to break. And they reduce the bag’s capacity. I guess I’m old-fashioned… give me 2 wheels please.

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