Is Airberlin ignoring this traveler’s request?

When Wesam Azaizeh arrives safely home, he realizes that his luggage didn’t make it. And when he seeks compensation from Airberlin, he gets multiple acknowledgments, but his claim is never paid or denied. Now what?

Question: I booked a flight to return to my studies as a graduate student in New York, via Berlin. After a four-hour layover I arrived at John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport, having had a 10-hour flight and a 2-hour wait at passport check. I was shocked to hear that my baggage was missing.

At first, an airline employee at JFK assured me that it would only be a matter of a day or two at most. But after a few phone calls and an email, which got no response, I started losing hope. I have been waiting three months for a phone call to discuss the compensation.

I want to receive satisfactory compensation for damaged and delayed baggage. Both of these issues are still not fully resolved even though I have been trying to sort it out for the past three months. Can you help? — Wesam Azaizeh, Bronx, N.Y.

Answer: This should have been a straightforward baggage claim — it really should. You made it back, but your bag didn’t, and you had to replace the contents and the bag. It wasn’t even as if you were asking for an extravagant amount of compensation; you were only asking for $560. Given that you had your winter clothing in the bag, I thought that was a reasonable amount to claim.

I’m not so sure the same could be said for your request for further compensation for “the inconvenience and hardship that I had to endure during the past 11 days since my baggage has been lost.”

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Airlines don’t compensate for inconvenience, so we’ll move on from that request!

You filed your claim with Airberlin on January 20. You got a response the next day assigning you a case number, and then 10 days later you got a request for bank details — so far so good.

However, it was at this point that things started to get a little strange. On February 10, having already given your bank details, you were asked for receipts along with confirmation that you didn’t have baggage insurance. I’m not suggesting that requesting receipts is strange — I just find it a little odd that you were asked for those after you had already been asked for your bank details.

Putting that point aside, that is when something peculiar happened. Having submitted your receipts, you were told Airberlin would be in contact, and at the end of February you got yet another email, this time asking you to make arrangements for a callback from the airline to discuss the case.

I’m not sure what there was to discuss, and you never found out because you never got a call. So you contacted Airberlin two more times, and all you received were emails stating that it would contact you as soon as possible.

By now, it was April, nearly three months since you first contacted Airberlin. At this point you contacted us to see if we could help.

One of our advocates contacted Airberlin on your behalf and got … radio silence. Come mid-May you still hadn’t heard anything, so I contacted the airline to see if I could get a response. This time it contacted you immediately, apologizing for the delay. Nine days later you got an email saying you would be paid in full for your luggage claim.

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You let me know your claim was resolved and thanked me for my time and effort. You’re most welcome, and I’m pleased to see that you didn’t pursue your claim for further compensation for “inconvenience and hardship.”

As for Airberlin — well, it shouldn’t have taken that long, and you shouldn’t have had to have chased that much to get the claim paid. But in the long run, Airberlin finally did do the right thing. In my view, however, It can be important to recognize when a company does the right thing, even if it takes some prodding.

John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat.

  • Bob Curtis

    I disagree with the conclusion. Sure, you owe readers the facts concerning the outcome, but Airberlin can scarcely be said to have “done the right thing”.

  • sirwired

    I’d still file a DOT complaint talking about the long timelines and non-response.

    And asking if you have insurance? Isn’t that something the insurance company usually asks? Because I’m pretty sure that most insurance companies require you to file with the airline first, and won’t pay until the process with the airline finishes.

  • Sue Smith

    I also disagree they “did the right thing.” They lost the luggage and should have paid immediately. Can we book a flight, and say, “oh, I’ll pay you in a few months when my finances are in order.” They seem to be able to take our money in seconds, but when they have to pay out, it takes months (and that’s after all the inconvenience of contacting them time after time) If it is a valid claim they should pay immediately. Shame on them.

  • Steve Rabin

    This wasn’t “the right thing”. I’m guessing they were delaying hoping the OP would give up and so they wouldn’t have to pay out.

  • Mel65

    What a goat rope! Knock wood I have only ever had my luggage go missing one time due to a delay that didn’t get my luggage to my connection on time; however, the airline delivered my luggage to my hotel room ( at 3 AM of course) but at least they delivered it!

  • greg watson

    being pushed & prodded into doing ‘the right thing’ is not quite the same thing. Better training & improved inner company communication could help AirBerlin & the consumer

  • joycexyz

    Right. “Doing the right thing” after being prodded is hardly “doing the right thing.”

  • joycexyz

    Delay, delay, and hope they’ll go away.

  • joycexyz

    Our luggage was delayed on a Southwest flight to Houston. Not only did they deliver it to our hotel, but they gave us each a $200 voucher. That’s doing the right thing!

  • jsn55

    Whenever I wonder about what goes on in the back offices of an airline, I think of the sales assistant at Dean Witter who didn’t like her boss. So she just put every 3rd thing in a big desk drawer … notices, client checks, requests for information, anything she pleased. When she left and someone produced the contents of that desk drawer, the poor Branch Manager fainted. It’s so difficult to wrap your mind around an airline not doing anything about someone’s bag for months and months … why, why, why? Well, perhaps someone is deleting a third of the emails and notifications that come in … for some reason known only to them.

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