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I have just had the worst customer experience with a major airline in my life and want to know if there is anything I can do.

TL; DR:

I got my bag one day late, after that I was told by employees of the airline I flew with (British Airlines) that I "do not need to file a missing bag report because the missing bag is already in the database". After that, I requested an expense reimbursement, and the answer was basically "we cannot reimburse you because without the missing bag report, there is no way to know if your bag was missing" which in my opinion, is pure BS.

Here is the whole story:

  • Day 1: I flew from my home airport to my destination. My flight landed late, at 7PM local time, at which point I had to go pick up my bags. After waiting for them for 30 minutes, it was clear my bags did not arrive with my flight. An employee of the airport told me he will call someone from the airline company to help me. After 30 minutes, he came back and told me there is nobody in the office, and that I should just go to the check-in counter to talk to the airline people directly. However, border control took a long time, and by the time I got to the checking counter, it was empty. I could not contact anyone from the airline company, and was told to call them on the airport phone. The phone redirected me to a call centre which could not help me and told me to come back the next day.
  • Day 2: I came back to the airport at the time I was told, but the checkin counter was still empty due to a canceled flight. After 5 hours, I was finally able to talk to an employee of the airline I was flying with. After being insulted and shouted at (why didn't you contact us yesterday? I did, but there was nobody here that's not true Yes it is. No that's not true, there's always an employee here Well there wasn't yesterday. I don't believe you) I was told that my bag is already en route to the airport and it will arrive in 1 hour. I got the bag after 1 hour, but by that time, several expenses (for example, parking at the airport for several hours and driving to the airport and back) were already caused by the delayed bag. I asked the clerk what I need to do to get refunded. They told me to just go to the website and fill out the form, saying "the fact that your bag was delayed is already in our database"
  • Days 3-now: I filed the reimbursement form explaining all the costs that were incurred by the delayed bag. The answer from the airline was that I need to give them the "delayed bag report number". I explained to them that there is no delayed bag report because I was told (by them) that I do not need it. Now, the answer from the airline is that they will not process my claim because there is no missing bag report:

    As previously mentioned, we need these delayed baggage reports in order to trace all missing bags and have control & records of all missing bags and I hope you’ll understand we have to be consistent so we’re fair to all of our customers. This means we can’t make an exception this time and make any compensation payment without such a number and I’m so sorry to let you down.

My question is this:

Can they really do that? Note: I did nothing else but what the airline told me. I followed their instructions to the letter. They themselves told me to not file a report because they already have the missing bag in the database, and now they won't process me because there is no report?


Edit:

The airport I flew into was San Francisco International. I flew from Venice to SFO via London, and the flight where the bags were lost is the last one.

The airline I flew with is British Airways.

  • 2
    Sorry-o. I went through a period where every second or third flight saw my bags get lost. In the process, I've had my fair share of very shitty airline customer service. I found that a rule of thumb is that airlines will go out of their way to make it very difficult for you to get some kind of financial compensation from them, while mostly being generally unhelpful. Considering this happened in litigation-happy America, you might have a legal case against them, but, IANAL. Even then, the money you lost will likely pale in comparison to the time and effort it will cost you to pursue this issue. – MastaBaba Dec 11 '15 at 2:51
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    @MastaBaba Yeah, I think that was the idea. Although I don't think this is smart business practice on the part of BA. They lost a potentially valuable customer, and recieved negative publicity on all social media I can reach. The gained something like 50 dollars. I don't think it's worth it, and I've written as much in my final email to them. I can forget the 50 bucks. I will not forget the fact that they, in effect, stole those 50 bucks from me. – 5xum Dec 11 '15 at 4:47
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    Under their own policies you're probably entitled to more than $50 - there's likley some compensation there as well as expense reimbursement. It sounds like you have the problem of local staff trying to hide their screwups, so that head office literally don't beleive you. In future, I'd suggest you should have called BA customer service/complaints while stood at an empty counter, rather than waiting to speak to a local staff member face to face. They're probably more concerned about the reputation, and it would give some evidence to what you say. – CMaster Dec 11 '15 at 9:29
  • Any way you can edit this down to the essential details? Right now it just looks like a wall of text. – Flimzy Dec 11 '15 at 10:58
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    @CMaster I did call BA. I got redirected to New Delhi to an employee who knew nothing and was told "come back the next day". – 5xum Dec 11 '15 at 15:10
14

The employee at baggage services should have filed a Property Irregularity Report on Worldtrace immediately and given you a print out with a reference number on it. I have no idea why they would suggest you go and talk to the check in people. The check in person probably doesn't even know how to do it, it's a completely separate system.

Unfortunately, without that Property Irregularity Report filed in the system, it is quite hard for BA to know if you are telling the truth. That is why they are being stubborn—there really is no record that your bag was late. However, when your bag was delivered to you on an alternative flight, it will (usually) have been re-labelled, possibly by hand. The new tag usually includes the expression "RUSH" [because it is being manually delivered to the aircraft] and a new baggage identifier for the computer system, and new flights which are clearly different to the flights you flew on. That re-printed label is evidence that your bag was mishandled.

In your shoes, I would write a polite letter to BA customer services explaining what happened, and include a clear photograph of the new bag tag, explaining that this is the evidence that it was delivered late and you expect to be compensated for your loss. Do not descend into blaming incompetent employees, just stick to the facts:

  • your name and your PNR reference for your ticket;
  • the time, date, origin and destination of the flights;
  • that your bag was delivered late;
  • that baggage services refused to provide a Property Irregularity Report, so you are including a picture of the late bag tag as evidence;
  • that the bag arrived the next day;
  • that reasonable and necessary expenses were incurred, receipts are attached; and,
  • that you expect the expenses paid into your personal bank account numbered ###. Depending on where you live you may also need to provide a sort code or other detail.

Include receipts or a credit card statement for items you've purchased. For your own security, redact the parts of the statement that are not important for the claim.


I appreciate that this is not helpful to you now, but for future reference, do not ever leave the baggage collection area without either your bags in your hand or a printed Property Irregularity Report from baggage services. Only baggage services can help you, no one else in the airport can do anything about it.

  • 1
    When you say "The employee at baggage services", do you mean an airport employee or an BA employee? – 5xum Dec 11 '15 at 15:05
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    @5xum Usually going to be an airport employee unless BA run the terminal (and they only run two terminals in the world). – Calchas Dec 11 '15 at 17:42
  • Thanks for this answer. I will update with more info when I get the answer from BA – 5xum Dec 11 '15 at 19:13
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    I suspect this may be a case where the contractor at SFO (who is not a BA employee) may be charged for late baggage or baggage mishandling (as a condition of their contract - I know other airport services companies, like Dnata are charged fees by airlines for this). So possibly to avoid this charge they gave you the run around. Unfortunate really, but you just have to stick to the facts of your situation and it will be resolved. – Burhan Khalid Dec 12 '15 at 19:32

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