When WOW Air loses a family’s luggage, was the response too little, to late, to live up to the promise in its name?

Lost luggage claim

When the Fang family arrived in Paris for a week-long vacation, their luggage didn’t. And wouldn’t. So when they got home they filed a claim for reimbursement of the replacement items they had to buy. And waited. And waited.

Question: My family and I took a flight on WOW Air from Baltimore to Paris, with a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland. On the initial leg our flight was delayed because of summer storms. We missed our connecting flight to Paris and were put on a different flight to Paris, with a stopover in London. During this ordeal, our luggage was lost. It never showed during our week-long trip to Paris and eventually took approximately one week longer to reach our house in Potomac. We had to purchase replacement clothes in Paris during our trip. We submitted claims for these expenses, including copies of our receipts, to WOW Air requesting reimbursement for the amount we spent, including $200 spent on baggage fees. We have heard little back from them other than form responses. With each response, we have responded with an email, only to wait another six weeks before receiving subsequent form responses. We are frustrated. My family and I are hoping that a little push from a third party might speed up the process, which has already taken six months. Can you help? — Kenneth Fang, Potomac, Md.

Answer: WOW Air’s website includes a section headlined “Our promises — We aim to WOW!” Reading about your experience with the airline, definitely made us say “wow.” But not, I suspect, in the way the airline had hoped.

Let’s start with the lost luggage. You did everything you should have done. You immediately filed a claim when you arrived in Paris and your luggage didn’t arrive. You followed up the next day when your luggage still hadn’t been delivered to your room as promised. Your later correspondence with WOW paints a disturbing picture of just how much effort it took to file that claim.

“It took us several attempts, in which we racked up several long-distance and roaming charges, before we finally reached a live human. We asked for numbers that would allow us to speak to a person who could help locate our baggage. We tried contacting these numbers and continued to reach out using these other contact numbers we found on the websites.”

And, sadly, when you did finally connect with a human being, things didn’t improve.

“We explained our situation to individuals who gave us misguided or downright erroneous information. For example, that night we called WOW and waited 25 minutes before speaking to someone. That person gave us an incorrect number to try ‘Lost and Found’ in Reykjavik and told us that someone would answer. We called but no one answered. We immediately tried WOW again and waited another 32 minutes before speaking to another live person, who immediately (and we believe purposely) hung up on us. We then tried calling the number again, waiting 40 minutes to speak to someone, who appeared nice but was ineffective at helping us locate our luggage.These calls were typical of our WOW help line experience.”

Yep, that definitely made us say “wow!”

As you mentioned, your luggage never arrived in Paris, so you bought replacement clothing and necessities for your family. Then when you got home, you submitted a reimbursement claim with a meticulously detailed inventory of what you bought and what each item cost.

And waited.

You reported receiving a series of form letter responses, each separated by weeks. At one point WOW even asked you to prove you hadn’t been compensated by travel insurance or your credit card company. Finally you asked our advocates to intervene for you. They did and, nine months later, WOW offered to compensate you — for half of your expenses, “their final offer” as they put it.

Oh, and they did offer to refund the baggage fees you’d been charged. After all, as you pointed out to the airline, why should you pay for a service that wasn’t rendered properly?

So is that enough compensation?

The Montreal Convention does address the issue of compensation for lost luggage for international travelers. The relevant articles state:

Article 19:

The carrier is liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage by air of passengers, baggage or cargo. Nevertheless, the carrier shall not be liable for damage occasioned by delay if it proves that it and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it or them to take such measures.

Article 22:

2. In the carriage of baggage, the liability of the carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights for each passenger unless the passenger has made, at the time when the checked baggage was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires. In that case the carrier will be liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum, unless it proves that the sum is greater than the passenger’s actual interest in delivery at destination

5. The foregoing provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article shall not apply if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier, its servants or agents, done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result; provided that, in the case of such act or omission of a servant or agent, it is also proved that such servant or agent was acting within the scope of its employment.

A Special Drawing Right is an international monetary unit currently roughly equivalent to a euro, so your claim is within the amounts specified. But these paragraphs merely set the maximum amounts of liability, and leave air carriers room for a broad degree of interpretation.

In your correspondence to the airline, you pointed out that what they offered calculates out to $20.52 a day for clothes and toiletries for each of your family members during the vacation they spent without luggage.

Enough?

I suggest you share those calculations with the executive contacts at WOW Air found on our advocacy website. Perhaps one of them will try harder to fulfill the airline’s promises

That section on WOW’s website about promises also says “…we love smiling, and we hope our guests will smile back and maybe laugh at some of our jokes.”
Some might think the service the airline provided to the Fang family was a joke. But not the kind that makes you smile back.

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