Denied a lost luggage claim on a technicality — can you help?

When Kelly Paulson’s luggage is lost, she follows the airline’s instructions but is left with no luggage and unexpected expenses. Why? She doesn’t have an “official” claim number. Now what?

Question: I recently flew on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from Seattle to Oslo, Norway, via Amsterdam. When I arrived in Oslo, I found out that my luggage and that of 70 other passengers was missing. There was only one KLM representative at the airport. Because of the number of passengers waiting in line, we were instructed to file the missing property report online, and that we would be compensated for the replacement cost of necessary items.

After filing the report, I received a confirmation message that, because of technical problems, a temporary file reference number had been issued. It stated that a final Property Irregularity Report would be sent to me via email when the system was back up and running. I did not receive one, and it has become the source of my complaint.

I spent $202 on toiletries and a change of clothing. When I inquired about my luggage with KLM, I was again told that I would receive compensation, and that the airline would deliver my bag to the hotel when it was found. That did not happen. After waiting three days with no word from KLM, I had to pay for transportation back to the airport to check on the status of my luggage. A representative located it in a storage room. I also lost money on a prepaid tour of the Oslo Opera House, because of the time it took at the airport. I would like to be reimbursed for that, as well as my transportation costs.

When I returned home, I filed another claim and was informed that Delta was now handling the KLM cases for those who reside in the U.S. I emailed copies of my receipts, airline tickets, and KLM’s confirmation message and temporary file claim number to a representative of Delta. I have been unable to get this issue resolved for several months. The representative said that she was unable to get the reimbursement approved without an official missing property number.

I contacted KLM a couple of weeks ago and have not received a response. I need your help! I just want to get reimbursed for the money I spent due to the airline losing my luggage. — Kelly Paulson, Seattle

Answer: This case is a reminder of how important a paper trail is in resolving a problem. Companies want proof, and the “customer’s word” does not go very far. You have done a great job of communicating with KLM and Delta and have been very patient with a problem that has continued for almost four months.

You were denied a lost luggage claim on a technicality, even though you followed standard procedure by initiating a missing property report the day your luggage was lost. The error resulted from a computer glitch with KLM.

You were left to deal with the problem, because KLM never issued you a final Property Irregularity Report number. If KLM was able to provide a temporary file reference number, there should be a record of that in its system. Otherwise, it should have given you an error message that your claim was not processed.

You are justified in asking for a reimbursement of expenses. According to KLM’s delayed or lost baggage policy,

If your bag was lost, damaged or something was missing from it, please contact KLM Customer Care to request reimbursement of expenses and/or compensation.

It is disappointing that KLM did not notify you when your luggage was found. It should have offered to deliver it to your hotel. Instead, after three days had passed with no word on your luggage, you had to pay for transportation back to the airport to find out if it had been located. It also cut into your touring time.

What is most disconcerting is how Delta handled your request for reimbursement. There were 20 emails between you and the same Delta representative. Instead of sending you one message with a list of what Delta required (like a copy of your receipts, airline tickets, reference number, number of bags, what airline you flew on, and more), the representative sent only one request at a time and then asked again for information you had already sent.

Even though you forwarded a screenshot of KLM’s confirmation of a report being filed, along with the temporary file number assigned, the representative said that KLM does not issue temporary claim numbers. This went on for several months. Your responses were always pleasant and concise.

It looks like Delta’s representative was not willing to take the initiative to get this problem resolved. Having Delta handle correspondence addressed to KLM probably did not help either.

Sometimes a successful resolution depends on the person you are dealing with and how much effort they are willing to put forth on your behalf. If you are unable to come to a reasonable solution with a company representative, escalate your request to a higher level. We provide a list of company executives and their contact information on our company contacts section.

When consumers reach an impasse with a company and don’t know what to do, they turn to our advocates. What many may not know is that these fine advocates working behind the scenes are offering their time at no cost to the consumer. They review the matter objectively and attempt to negotiate a reasonable solution.

We are glad that you chose to reach out to our advocates on our advocacy site. They jumped in and started working on your behalf and did a great job of helping you resolve this problem. Delta agreed to issue you a refund for $202 and gave you a travel voucher for $100.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.