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.
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’.
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.