Ellen Weiner contacted us after eight frustrating months of being ignored by Alitalia. She spent 10 days in Israel last year, traveling from Miami to Tel Aviv with a stop in Rome. Along the way, one of her bags went missing.
She eventually got her bag back — seven weeks after returning to the United States. And now she wants reimbursement for expenses incurred when she was without her suitcase.
But this isn’t your typical missing baggage case. You see, Alitalia got confused. Really confused. And actually, we’re not sure they’ve stopped being confused. We’ll get to that in a second.
To understand this case, we have to start at the beginning, in Miami. As Weiner sat waiting for her flight to Rome, she noticed something terribly wrong with her boarding passes: Alitalia checked her in as the wrong passenger. Turns out there were two people named E. Weiner on the flight from Miami to Rome.
“While the staff scrambled to correct the issues with my ticket and boarding passes, they said they’d board the plane and find my two bags,” Weiner writes. “They gave me new boarding passes with my new baggage claim tickets attached.”
When she arrived in Tel Aviv, the second suitcase she paid to check was nowhere to be found. She reported the bag missing and carried on with her trip.
While she was out touring the city, her friends informed her that her bag arrived. Weiner thought it was a joke, because they texted her a picture of the bag, which wasn’t her bag at all.
Yup. Alitalia confused the two passengers at check-in, and then compounded the error by failing to properly reroute their respective bags.
“The mother of the teenage girl whose bag I had received called my friends and asked them not to release the bag back to the airline.”
The airline delivered Weiner’s bag to the other Weiner, who refused it, turning it back over to Alitalia.
As is the case with all missing bags, this suitcase contained most of Weiner’s clothing and essentials for her trip. She only had a pair of shoes and a few outfits with her. “Certainly not enough for 10 days in Israel,” she explains.
When luggage is lost or delayed, airlines should reimburse the passenger for needed clothing and items while the passenger was without the bag. Some airlines make it easier than others, but in this case, it should be really easy. Alitalia is headquartered in Europe, where consumer-friendly regulations known as the European Passenger Bill of Rights, in concert with the Montreal Convention of 1999, establish rules for compensation in situations like this. In line with European rules for lost and delayed baggage, Weiner is absolutely entitled to compensation from Alitalia for the delayed bag, which is capped at roughly $1,400. (This amount is a rough estimate because the amount is actually calculated in a fluid International Monetary Fund multiplier called Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs.)
So if consumer-friendly rules govern European carriers, including Alitalia, why has the airline ignored Weiner’s claim for the last eight months? Could it be too embarrassed to ‘fess up to the massive mix-up — which, incidentally, has much larger security implications? Or could it be that Alitalia doesn’t even know who she is?