Lost Luggage Credit Card Protection and The Lack of Coverage When Using Frequent Flyer Miles

by on July 15, 2013 · 12 comments

in Air Berlin, American Express, Credit Cards, Travel Insurance

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There are many things that can go wrong on a trip – especially one that spans numerous countries and involves trains, planes, automobiles and even Icelandic horses.

By far the most common travel trauma however, is lost luggage. With more fees and better tracking technology (and less people checking bags), it mystifies me that airlines still manage to lose suitcases, from time to time. Low and behold, even Team TPG is not immune to that predicament and TPG Managing Editor Eric found himself missing his luggage while flying on Air Berlin from Warsaw to Keflavik International Airport in Iceland this week via Berlin Tegel.

There is nothing more infuriating than losing your luggage.

There is nothing more infuriating than losing your luggage.

Eric’s itinerary included  WAW-TXL-KEF, and although he made it there safely, sadly his bags did not. While his luggage has been thankfully located – and is apparently in Dusseldorf – he was informed that there will probably still be a few days delay between Eric’s arrival and that of his bags.

With just a hoodie and temperatures in Reykjavik falling by the minute, we thought through what Eric’s options might be since he needed to pick up a few items of clothing.

Credit Card Coverage
As I pointed out last week in a post about credit card trip coverage, many credit cards offer all kinds of protection from lost luggage to car rental insurance. So we called American Express since I had booked Eric’s ticket for 10,000 American AAdvantage miles on AirBerlin and paid the taxes and fees with my Premier Rewards Gold.

The Premier Rewards Gold card does have a good lost and delayed baggage policy, which states:

“We will pay a benefit for the Replacement Cost, up to $500, for each Covered Person on a Covered Trip for Loss of checked Baggage. (Bicycles are covered when checked as Baggage with a Common Carrier Conveyance.). But in order to invoke it, the entire cost of the ticket must be paid for using the card, then the cardholder is eligible for baggage insurance protection. If the flight was booked on flyer miles, it is not eligible for baggage insurance protection.”

But he was out of luck there since this was an award ticket. Not only that, but only the primary cardholder, additional cardholders or his/her dependents (spouse or children up until age 23) are protected, even if the cardholder purchased the ticket for someone else at full fare.

When it comes to Chase cards such as the Sapphire Preferred, their policy states:

“If your checked bags are delayed for a period of 18 hours or more by a common carrier, you can be reimbursed for the emergency purchase of covered essential items. Carry-on or checked luggage is covered if lost or stolen when you purchase your common carrier ticket using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card.” So since this was booked with miles and the whole flight wasn’t charged onto the card, this wouldn’t apply.”

The Citi policy for cards such as the Citi ThankYou Preferred card states:

“Lost Luggage Coverage provides up to $3,000 in coverage for you and your dependents when you charge your entire air, bus or rail transportation fare with your Citi ThankYou Card prior to departure. This benefit covers permanently lost, stolen or damaged baggage or personal articles checked with an air, bus or rail transportation company. Rental vehicles, taxicabs, limousines, or government owned or operated public transportation systems operating within an exclusive metropolitan area are not included.” Again, since this ticket was booked with miles, it wouldn’t apply.

Lastly, looking at Barclaycard’s policy for cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, the policy states:

“We will reimburse up to the Daily Benefit Amount of $100 per day for 3 days in the event of a Baggage Delay. This travel insurance plan is provided to Barclays Bank World Master- Card cardholders, automatically when the entire cost of a Common Carrier passenger fare(s) is charged to a World MasterCard account while the insurance is effective. It is not necessary for you to notify Barclays Bank, the administrator or the Company when tickets are purchased.” No dice here for an award ticket either.

There are strict conditions for the Amex Baggage Insurance Plan.

There are strict conditions for the Amex Baggage Insurance Plan.

Here’s the other key term: Coverage can be provided for lost, stolen or damaged carry-on or checked baggage. Coverage is in excess of the Common Carrier Conveyance liability.

So we had to check on Air Berlin’s policy.

Air Berlin's lost baggage policy.

Air Berlin’s lost baggage policy is rather thin.

Air Berlin Lost Baggage Policy 
Unfortunately, there is little information on the Air Berlin website concerning lost luggage. They advise you to first contact the Lost & Found desk on arrival, where you will be asked to complete a claim form – which I am sure wold be even the most inexperienced traveler’s first move! If that does not reunite you with you bags then the next move is to contact the customer service department in Berlin and/or fax in a contact form. For luggage lost for more than five days, they advise contacting the Central Baggage Tracing Office in Schönefeld, Germany. For all the details on addresses and contact numbers, click here.
Alternatively, you can plug your information into the WorldTracer program, a computerized baggage tracing system, and hope that the wonderful world of technology can achieve what the baggage handlers couldn’t.
While the airline looks for your luggage, its policy is that in the event that checked baggage does not arrive with the passenger traveling to or from the US, Air Berlin will make every reasonable effort to return the baggage within 24 hours and compensate any reasonable expenses that result from delay in delivery. In the event that baggage is lost or destroyed, Air Berlin will reimburse any baggage fees charged for the transportation of that baggage.
It does not however detail how much compensation of expenses will be paid, or if in Eric’s case, when he was flying via Keflavik before returning back to the US, if he is still covered under this policy. In the meantime, it took about 36 hours, but his bags finally made it to his hotel in Reykjavik from the airline’s baggage-handling agency, a company called Airport Associates. That was a whole other rigamarole since we had to try each and every number listed on the company’s web site before someone picked up and then were told that his luggage was actually on a Lufthansa flight a day later from Dusseldorf.
Luckily, we asked the representative to check again, and lo and behold, instead of informing Eric by any of the contact information he had provided including his cell phone, email and the phone number of the hotel where he was staying, this rep talked to someone on the other end for about 5 minutes and found out that the luggage had already arrived at his hotel and had been downstairs for an hour or so.
Well, at least his luggage arrived, but he does still have some expenses to square away with Air Berlin, so we’ll keep you updated as to his progress. And the lesson we all learned from this is, if you book your itinerary as an award, don’t expect your credit cards to help you with lost luggage. Instead know the terms and conditions of your carrier(s) and hold them to account if something goes wrong – and don’t be afraid to be persistent.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Espan

    What about the co-branded cards like the Citi AA and Chase United Explorer, when using them to pay the taxes and fees on award bookings? Any better?

  • tjh8402

    I second this question

  • MediaWatcher

    So close, but alas, wrong. I got a lovely 3000 dollar check from Citi on a mileage ticket where my bags where permanently lost. As long as you pay all of the taxes, you’re covered.

  • thisname101

    Finnair once lost my checked bag on a NY-HEL-WAW flight. I got it after a WEEK. No Christmas presents, no fancy NYE party. I filed the claim, got my receipts and got reimbursed $250.

  • Mark

    In January, I was able to get $300 (maximum payout) for my 5-day delayed baggage on a AA Award ticket when I used my US Airways Barclays Card to pay the taxes and fees.

    Alternatively, here is an option to cover ALL of your travel regardless of carrier, purchase method, credit cards held, etc.

    Amex Global Baggage Protection
    Reimbursement for lost, damaged, or stolen baggage, whether checked, carried-on your flight, or on your hotel or cruise property. Also, reimbursement for essential replacement items if your baggage has been delayed. You don’t need to be an Amex cardmember to buy this product.

    1) Baggage Loss (Maximum Per Trip Limit)
    2) Annual Maximum for Baggage Loss and Delay
    3) Baggage Delay (Hours & Maximum Per Trip Limit)

    Up to $500, Up to $1,000, 6+ hours & Up to $300

    Up to $1,000, Up to $2,000, 6+ hours & Up to $500

    Up to $1,500, Up to $3,000, 6+ hours & Up to $500

    Up to $2,500, Up to $5,000, 3+ hours & Up to $500

  • MilesMerchant

    I used my Chase United Explorer card to pay for an award flight on Lufthansa last year. We all thought my baggage got lost – it was actually delayed for more than 24hrs. I went ahead and tried to file a delayed baggage claim through the card. They confirmed that as long as I paid with the taxes and fees on my card, it is covered. And indeed, I was reimbursed.

    “This policy reimburses the Insured Person up to $100 per day for essential
    items purchased while the luggage is delayed by the airlines.” – Chubb Group of Insurance Companies

    All I had to do was give them documentation from my credit card statement (that I used the card), something from the airline acknowledging the delay, and the necessities I had to buy due to the delay.

  • SgFm

    I paid taxes and last minute booking fees for a AA award ticket last year for my daughter using my Sapphire Visa. Her bag was lost by either AA or LAN on a trip to S. America (we never found out which airline actually lost her bag). She filed the appropriate paperwork with LAN in LIM and did get some but not all of her claim compensated by them. I made her an authorized user on my Sapphire account and then filed a claim with Chase and their insurance partner (Chubb). All of her remaining losses were covered by Chubb.

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  • Tony Edwards

    I too had a similar story landed with my 2 daughters in Paris with all three bags missing. I filled in the form went to the hotel. called about 15 times the next day got put on hold no one ever picked up. Then i called air berlin all over the place. running up about $50 in hotel phone fees. after getting through to someone in Berlin on the second day they said there was nothing they could do until it was missing 5 days. Since I had to purchase clothes and other things I spend about $400 for the three of us. after three days they showed up. 5 day vacation to Paris was ruined. my luggage as lost June 4th and as yet only got 2 emails from them .. one saying they had where extremely busy. this was middle of July. at the end of july i got an emails asking for tickets stubs and receipts of everything i bought. never heard back from them.. They need to get some kind of claims tracking system in place. its been about 80 days since the luggage was lost and still no refund

  • Amanda

    I had a recent nightmarish lost luggage experience with Air Berlin flying from JFK to VIE via TXL. Both of our bags were lost. One reappeared after 3 days. Of course I kept calling (racking up huge phone bills) and never got any useful information, if they even bothered to answer the phone at all. Likewise, all my emails went unanswered, except for one email telling us they would provide some compensation for “necessities” – but not to spend too much! Outrageous. We were at the beginning of a 7 week holiday in Europe, and my husband had nothing at all, not even a toothbrush. We got some friends in Germany to call Air Berlin, but after several unfruitful hours in phone queues, they got nowhere. Finally, as a last resort, I got my friend who lives near JFK to go to the airport to see if the bag was there (luggage at this point was 10 days missing). She is extraordinarily pretty and young, and the lost luggage guy at JFK was very eager to help – he found the bag (it hadn’t left JFK) and said he would personally put the bag on a flight the next day. And he gave her his cell phone number with instructions to call if the bag didn’t arrive! Meanwhile, Air Berlin did absolutely nothing, and obviously didn’t care at all. I will never fly Air Berlin again, it was an extremely disheartening and frustrating experience.

  • joan

    Did you even know that airlines, NEVER EVER get to touch luggage ?
    The luggage is carried by airport carriers from checkin to the
    aircraft…the airlines only carry baggage while flying…AIR BERLIN

    The problem isn’t Air Berlin as such but Berlin Tegel airport. It’s a
    luggage black hole. More seriously, it was never designed as a
    connecting airport and the baggage systems are all designed to deliver
    bags to the carousels in arrivals, not to sort them and deliver them to
    other aircraft. Air Berlin shouldn’t even be at Tegel now, the new
    Berlin-Brandenburg airport should have opened last year and they were
    within 3 weeks of transferring their operations there when the new
    terminal building failed its fire safety certificate inspection.

    There’s still no firm date for the new airport will actually open as a
    working solution has yet to be found and implemented to extract smoke
    from the building in the event of a fire.

    In the meantime it would be a good idea to avoid short connections in
    Tegel (TXL) unless you’re travelling hand baggage only, and for Air
    Berlin to devote more resources to reuniting passengers with their bags
    after the airport has delayed them.

    Lately JFK organisation has tured out to have the same issues. Yes,
    all airlines lose luggage, it’s not actually the airline most times, but
    the airport staff. However how they handle it is never great with most
    airlines…and sometimes business comes first

  • shay peleg

    This is why i like delta they pay 50$ per day but will actually pay way more then that if you got elite status

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