Getting Reimbursement for Lost or Delayed Luggage

Nov 7, 2012

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A few months ago I was in a situation where I was running late for a morning flight due to a long security line (and my love of precious sleep), and while I made the flight without incident, there was no longer any room for my carry-on roller bag since the bin space was full.  Normally this is slightly annoying, but not a huge deal.  However, in this case I was going to Las Vegas, but had a connection in San Francisco, and I immediately had a bad feeling about this development.  Connections absolutely increase the likelihood that there will be problems with your checked bag…of course, so does being late and having to check it in the first place.

I first asked if the bag could just be gate checked so it would be waiting for me on the jet bridge at my connecting airport.  The flight attendant said no, so I reluctantly checked my bag with her and boarded the plane.  My flights were on-time and I arrived to Las Vegas ready to get my bag and go hang out with friends for my one-night trip.  Of course, if you happened to read my posts at the time, you would know that my bag did not arrive.  Not only that, but the baggage services people at the airport were unable to track the bag at all.  Essentially they had no clue where it was or when it might arrive.  I was told that the flight attendant had filed out the bag tag incorrectly, and that was the source of the problem.

“Grrrrreat” was all I could think since I was only there one night, had no transportation other than a cab, and I had already lost an hour of hanging out with friends while I was waiting in line for baggage services.  I called the number provided by the airport, and was told I would get up to $100 authorized for purchases I needed that night, and could submit receipts to be reimbursed.  I explained that was nice, but since I was staying at a resort with no transportation my expenses for the night would exceed $100 just to get a swimsuit, something to sleep in, underwear, toiletries, etc.  Vegas resorts may have cheap hotel rooms, but the shops are anything but cheap.

As expected, just to get the basics to continue on with my afternoon/evening plans was over $250.  I was very conservative in purchasing things, but even the infamous ugly Kardashian swim suit rang in at over $100 all by itself.  I didn’t want my Mirage branded shirt/shorts or my hot pink tiny bikini, but I needed them because United did not deliver my checked bag, and didn’t know when it might arrive.

The good news was that though I never received a call from United updating the situation, my bag showed up the next morning, and was with the bellman at the Mirage.  Thankfully, he called to let me know it had arrived.  After the trip I submitted all the receipts for the items I purchased, and sent them into the United Baggage Services along with a letter detailing the situation.  If I had the time and transportation to go to Target and buy these items cheaper, I would have (they probably would have been cuter, too), but I would have burned even more time on my one evening trip, and I would have also incurred additional cab expenses, so that was not a viable option for that night.

I wasn’t sure what the response from United would be, and I would have accepted it if all they did was refund up to the max of $100 for expenses, but I was very happy that they did more than that.  After a few weeks, they sent the reimbursement check for $100, but also included a travel certificate for $150 for the inconvenience.  That amount was roughly the total that I had spent on the items I needed for the night.  The certificate was as good as cash since I book United flights so frequently, so in the end I really didn’t lose much out of pocket (though I have never again used the majority of the items purchased that day).

After the trip I thought more about it and realized that perhaps I should be giving more thought to what card I am using for various tickets based on the travel benefits that card offers.  Many credit cards have some different travel protections that are available either as a benefit of card membership, or for an additional fee, but some have pretty decent built in delayed bag benefits.  For example, if you use your United MileagePlus Explorer card to purchase a flight, and your bags are delayed for at least 18 hours, you can claim up to $300 ($100 per day) for items needed during the delay.  I certainly would not double-claim with both the card issuer and the airline, but it is a good back-up plan if the airlines are uncooperative or don’t cover all of your expenses.  If the bags are permanently lost, you can claim up to $3,000 for the lost bags.  The materials that came with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Bold Charge Card also seems to have these benefits.  From what I can tell, the The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN I have been using for purchasing tickets due to the 3x bonus, does not have a baggage delay benefit.  It does have some lost bag benefits, but I haven’t found a delayed bag benefit.  Though if you have, please send the info!

I share this story in case you find yourself in a similar situation.  Obviously I would not count on receiving more reimbursement than what you are promised, but go ahead and submit all receipts along with a polite letter if your bags are lost/delayed.  Even if you aren’t given cold hard cash for all of your items, it is possible you will receive something additional to help off-set your loss.  Also keep in mind what benefits your credit card used for the purchase may provide.  Another thing I learned while at the baggage center was that the airlines often have car seats that they will provide free of charge in the event your car seat is lost/delayed.  Obviously that is not near as good as getting your car seat, but at least it gives you an option to leave the airport with some sort of child restraint.  Sadly there were two families in there with me who had that problem, and I have received numerous tweets and emails about that same issue.

What experiences have you had with airlines and credit card issuers regarding lost or delayed baggage?

 

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