Is this enough compensation? A flight voucher for damaged luggage

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By Christopher Elliott

When Rose Satz showed up at the luggage carousel in Baltimore after a recent American Airlines flight from Dallas, she found her almost-new American Tourister bag in bad shape. It had been scuffed, the zipper was busted and several items were missing from it, including her dental retainer and expensive makeup.

Satz immediately found an American Airlines representative and asked him what to do. He suggested she contact baggage services when she gets home, which in retrospect was the wrong advice. Always, always, always file a claim at the airport.

You know what comes next, don’t you? Here’s the final answer to her claim:

Thank you for your recent letter concerning our decision on your claim for missing property. I have reviewed your file and regret the disappointment created by our decision. While I can understand your feelings, I appreciate this opportunity to explain our decision.

As stated earlier, missing property must be reported within 24 hours and claims must be made in writing within 45 days following the loss in order to be considered for compensation. This time frame is necessary as prompt notification provides the best probability of recovery.

Since records show our Baggage Service Office was open at the time your flight arrived and we have no record of notification until 24 hours past the travel date, our decision will remain unchanged.

Actually, that’s not all the airline’s records show. Satz flew on American, but for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, she filed a lost luggage claim with United. Of course United didn’t have a record of her filing a claim. It didn’t have a record of her flying at all.

I might laugh at this, but I’m not one to talk. A few days ago I tried to check in at the wrong hotel. Seriously. After arguing for a few minutes with a front-desk employee, I finally consulted my itinerary and realized I was at the wrong place. Oops!

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My advocacy team and I suggested Satz send a brief, polite note to a manager at American, asking it to address her lost luggage. Under normal circumstances, the airline would compensate her for lost or damaged items by cutting her a check. But this was a different situation. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Last week, she heard back from American. It offered her a $300 voucher for her trouble, which she’s sort of happy with. But she’s still upset by the experience.

I have reasons to believe that these airlines are taking advantage of us by not clearly explaining the procedures to us. I felt both discouraged and misinformed by the baggage claim representative at BWI.

In our correspondence, American addresses me as “Mr.” Rose Satz. This is a clearly indication that they just don’t care.

Perhaps. But a $300 voucher for a long-delayed claim is not a bad offer. Satz could have ended up with nothing more than an empty apology. (Related: Can American Airlines find my missing Apple AirPods?)

But is it enough?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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