Iberia damaged my luggage and refused to pay me for it!

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By Christopher Elliott

On a flight from Porto to Madrid, Iberia damaged Helene Rosenthal’s checked luggage. Why is it taking so long to pay her damage claim?


I was flying from Porto, Portugal, to Madrid, on Iberia. The airline damaged my checked luggage, a soft-sided upright bag, tearing a side corner out.

I filed a damaged luggage claim for $129 and provided Iberia with a receipt for the bag. It’s been more than three months, but I haven’t heard anything from Iberia. Can you help me with my claim? — Helene Rosenthal, Bedford, Mass.


I’m sorry about your damaged luggage. Iberia should have taken better care of your personal belongings. And if it damaged your bag, it should have acknowledged the problem and fixed it promptly, but Iberia is not known for that.

Airlines that toss your luggage around really annoy me. How hard can it be to treat your belongings with care? And that’s particularly true if you’re paying the airline a luggage fee to transport your stuff. Come on!

Since you were flying within the EU, you were covered by EC 261, the European airline passenger rights regulation.

Under EC 261, if your checked-in luggage is lost, damaged or delayed, the airline is liable. You’re entitled to compensation up to an amount of approximately 1,300 euros. But if an “inherent defect” caused the damage, then you’re not entitled to any compensation. (Related: An Iberia error cost me $2,231. Help!)

Unfortunately, EC 261 doesn’t give the airline a firm deadline. But I think we can all agree that three months is long enough to wait for an airline to respond. (Here’s how to use your airline credit.)

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You could have reached out to one of the executive contacts at Iberia. Our research team lists the names, numbers, and email addresses of Iberia’s managers in our database that you can access through a button at the top of our homepage. (Related: It has been four months — where is my reimbursement check from Iberia?)

Will Iberia ever pay for this damaged luggage?

You can also contact the EU member state airline regulation body via the European Consumer Centres Network. Like the U.S. Department of Transportation, these government organizations have the power to light a figurative fire under an airline like Iberia, and they often do. (Here’s our guide to finding your lost luggage.)

I know what you’re thinking, dear readers. What about the pandemic? Shouldn’t we cut Iberia some slack about a delayed damaged luggage refund? After all, the airline industry has suffered so much. But this damaged luggage incident happened before the pandemic — so, the pandemic is not a valid excuse, I’m afraid. (Related: What is taking so long for Ovago to send my refund!?)

The good news

Why do airlines drag their wings on a damaged luggage case like this? Because they can. There’s no regulatory body policing the claims process. If passengers give up and go away, that’s one less claim an airline like Iberia has to pay.
I contacted Iberia on your behalf, and it processed your claim in full.

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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 Panamá City.

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