Why won’t Swiss International Air Lines compensate me for my lost luggage?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Swiss loses Mark Bromley’s luggage on a flight from Zurich to Geneva, he files a claim for compensation. He never hears back. Does he deserve anything?

Question

Swiss International Air Lines lost my luggage for eight days while I was on a hiking trip to Geneva. It sent my bags to the wrong address and finally to my home almost two weeks later, after our vacation had ended. Swiss never compensated me for the hiking gear I had to buy.

The loss happened on a United Airlines code-share flight from Washington to Zurich and then connecting on Swiss from Zurich to Geneva. Swiss has no process or points of contact online or in person at their airport counters for filing or getting reimbursed for lost luggage.  

It seems Swiss contracts all of its public interface activities to a company called Swissport. Swissport can file a complaint, but it has no authority to process a claim.  I had a three-way conversation with supervisors from United Airlines and Swiss in the U.S. regarding compensation.  The Swiss Air supervisor gave me the telephone number to their point of contact in the “Missing Bag” department, which Swissport runs, but no one there could help me. So I’m back to where I started.  

I again arranged a three-way call with United and Swiss, and this time a representative recommended that I file a complaint with Lufthansa, the parent company of Swiss Air. I filed a complaint but never heard from them. Can you help me? — Mark Bromley, Reston, Va.

Answer

Swiss should have promptly compensated you for your lost luggage. Normally, an airline will cover items like toiletries and clothing when it misplaces your luggage. An airline representative should have helped you file a claim and then processed it quickly. By the time you contacted me, it had been almost six months since you filed your initial claim, which is far too long.

Who is responsible for your loss? Typically, ​​you should file a lost luggage claim with the operating carrier that delivers you to your final ticketed destination, which would have been Swiss. But it doesn’t really matter who was there to take your claim — Swiss, Swissport, United, or Lufthansa. Someone should have been there in Geneva to take care of you, and they should have authorized you to buy clothing and toiletries while you waited for your luggage.

The Montreal Convention and the Swiss General Conditions of Carriage govern your right to compensation. Under these agreements, you are entitled to a maximum of $1,574 for your lost luggage. You also had an insurance policy through World Nomads, which would have compensated you $700 for the clothes you had to buy, but only if Swiss failed to pay you. (Here’s how to buy the best luggage for your next trip.)

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

You could have used one of the executive contacts at Swiss that I publish on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. But I suspect your case would have again gotten lost between United, Lufthansa and Swiss. By the way, Swissport allows you to track your luggage online, although it’s not clear if that would have worked in your situation. (Related: ‘Unless your mother is dead, there’s nothing we can do and this conversation is over’.)

Was this a codeshare problem?

On a side note, this is one of the major problems of a codeshare arrangement. When something goes wrong, there’s a lot of finger-pointing, and often passengers are the losers. You have to be persistent.

You reached out to my advocacy team for help. I contacted Swiss on your behalf. A representative responded and said it had no record of your claim. Swiss suggested that you initiate a claim by filling out a claim through its website, which you did. Ten months after your flight, the airline sent you $1,574.

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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.

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