I need LATAM to send instructions for my claim in English

When Tim Tyler’s luggage goes missing after a flight on LATAM Airlines, communication failures with the airline stall the resolution of his claim for compensation. Can our advocates get LATAM to process the claim without further delays?

Question: When I flew on LATAM Airlines from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile, LATAM misplaced my luggage. It finally delivered my luggage to me when I was on an Oceania cruise ship in Peru.

The expenses I incurred as a result of the delays in receiving my luggage were partially covered by insurance, which reimbursed me within a month of filing the insurance claim. But when I requested reimbursement from LATAM for the remaining $600 of expenses, LATAM’s agents were unhelpful.

I telephoned and emailed LATAM eight times, and received responses from five different LATAM employees. Although I requested that we communicate in English, most of these responses were in Spanish.

LATAM’s agents requested that I send them .pdf files of my receipts. I did this five times, with a copy to my travel agent each time. Although my travel agent could open each of the .pdf files, every time I sent one to LATAM I received a response indicating that the airline’s agents could not open the file.

My travel agent has repeatedly reached out to LATAM on my behalf, but we have gotten nowhere with our request for compensation in the nine months since my flight. Can you help us get LATAM to speed things along? — Tim Tyler, Mill Creek, Wash.

Answer: ¡Ay! Nine months is an extremely long time for LATAM to keep you waiting for compensation after losing your luggage — especially since LATAM’s customer service plan indicates that “LATAM will compensate passengers for reasonable expenses as a result of any delays in the delivery of baggage as required by applicable international agreements.”

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According to the Montreal Convention, an international passenger can receive up to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights in compensation for the loss or delay of their bag, which is approximately $1,400. You had requested $600.

The delays are in part the result of language barriers. You needed your communications in English, yet the airline’s customer service agents are native Spanish speakers. Sending those communications to you in Spanish was probably a knee-jerk reflex on their part rather than bad faith. And you could have used Google Translate to interpret the Spanish emails in English.

But for those agents to demand .pdf files five times while insisting each time you supplied one that it couldn’t be opened when you and your travel agent knew that it could, raises the question of why they couldn’t open those files. Something was wrong with either their training, their attitudes or their Adobe Acrobat applications. Maybe all three.

Your case is one of the rare instances I’ve seen in which you had a reliable travel agent advocating for you; yet even he couldn’t get LATAM to respond to your claim in nine months. Although you and your travel agent might have escalated your case to higher-ranking executives at LATAM using our contact information, you turned to our advocates for help in speeding up the compensation process.

Our advocates reached out to LATAM on your behalf. After months of delay and assigning multiple claim numbers to your case, LATAM has notified us and your travel agent that it is issuing you compensation for the remaining portion of your claim.

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • Jeff W.

    It is possible that the LATM people could not open the PDF files. It really depends on what actual software package created the PDF document and what software package is opening the document.

    Many people do not use the true Adobe products to create and open files. I don’t, I find the software to be bloated and a memory hog. And there are different versions of PDFs, so sometimes you get a glitch if there is some incompatibilities between the writing program and reading program. The various clone or alternate programs do a fine job 99% of the time. It is that 1% that can cause an issue.

    True story: For awhile I used to download my Marriott hotel receipts from their website and submit the PDFs as part of my expense reporting. For a short period of time, accounting could not open those receipts, but could the others. I had no issues with any of them. Was it me, my accounting, or Marriott? Who knows? I just knew I needed to produce the document in another way in order for my expenses to get approved.

    Customer service reps aren’t going to try to troubleshoot why a PDF will not open. Neither did my accounting dept. Each will just reject the transaction and move on to the next.

    Point is, PDF is supposed to be a universal document format. But there are different versions of the format and most people do not use the true Adobe software, hence these things can happen.

  • Bill___A

    Although those could be valid points, pdf is a standard and any software that writes to that standard should be fine. It is very seldom that this type of problem happens in my experience. On another note, perhaps this airline should be prohibited from flying to the USA if they can’t communicate in English and can’t pay compensation in time. I also wonder why, after an insurance claim is paid, that there is still $600 left in expenses…

  • RichardII

    “… Something was wrong with either their training, their attitudes or their Adobe Acrobat applications.”

    Or, the pdf files are being blocked by the LATAM email server for security reasons. This is frequent issue and you may need to ask how to send the files. Sometimes they must be uploaded through a form in the company’s contact page rather than being sent attached to an email. In this particular case language may also have been an issue with clarity of instructions.

  • Todd Brown

    They did communicate in English, since he received responses five times. While it certainly would be preferred that LATAM have their claim form in English, it could also be assumed that they should translate it into dozens of other commonly spoken languages. That would mean a staff with multiple language skills to retranslate it into Spanish for processing and consideration. The notion that all business should be conducted in English is presumptuous at best. Should the traveler expect communications for his entire journey through Chile to be conducted in English? Or should those businesses that don’t speak English be barred from accepting reservations etc from English-only speakers?

  • cscasi

    And, with most computers and available programs these days, one could “translate” the claim form into English, complete it and return it.

  • The Original Joe S

    With all the money we’re sending over there, you’d think they’d speak English! -Bob Newhart

  • The Original Joe S

    Where’s it say they were blocked? They said they couldn’t open them, so they must have received them.

  • Annie M

    A good ending to a frustrating experience. Glad Mr. Tyler found you.

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