To fly from San Francisco to Paris last month, Kenneth Cook forked over 100,00 miles and paid a $194 fee 10 months before his scheduled flight. The routing wasn’t ideal — it sent him via Denver and Frankfurt, but for that, he was getting choice seats in the front of the plane.
The least he expected was the see his luggage at the end of the journey, and that if he didn’t, the airline would take care of everything.
As he sipped his glass of champagne, waiting for his Denver-bound flight to take off, the captain made an announcement that “delays of over an hour were anticipated, due to the need to remove 10,000 gallons of fuel, which required getting a truck to the gate,” he says.
He tried to tell a crewmember that he would need to get off the flight and reschedule, but the attendant was “grossly incompetent” and failed to get the bag off his original flight.
His new flight took him from Heathrow to Paris on Air France.
Of course, my luggage was not in Paris. I followed the [claims] process with the AirFrance staff, and received a tracking number, a T-shirt, a razor and a tooth brush, with the information that, if I didn’t have luggage in 24 hours, I was authorized to spend up to 100 euros.
As I was in Paris only overnight, they were going to deliver my bag to my hotel in Avignon.
The bag didn’t arrive within 24 hours, and Cook had to keep moving. He caught a train to Goult, France and when he arrived, he bought a few essentials, including 3 polo shirts, socks and underwear.
“I hoped for the best,” he says.
That proved to be overly optimistic. His bag didn’t arrive until a week after his arrival in France.
When I received my alternate routing in San Francisco, I was handed a card apologizing for the inconvenience, and offered “compensation” if processed online. They offered a choice of two discount coupons (with imitations) or 3,000 frequent flyer miles. When I tried to escalate, I was pushed into a message capturing queue.
Mostly, Cook is puzzled. The refund for the missed clothing must be processed through Delta, which is an Air France partner in the United States. However, he’s also been offered a separate compensation through United. What’s more, since his flight was delayed by more than three hours, EU 264 might apply to his situation.
“I feel United really messed up on this, and 3,000 miles is insultingly puny,” he says. “While I earned this trip, it did, in the long run, cost me significantly to accumulate that many miles, and it did cost me to redeem the award.”
Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.
I suggested he push this issue with all the airlines involved (and really, there are too many) which he did.
Final outcome? Delta and Air France quickly refunded the $124 he spent on clothes. He was happy about that. United upped the amount of compensation to an electronic certificate for $100, good for a year.
“Even my travel agent, with whom I shared this information, found the amount paltry and insulting,” he says.
Is it enough? Well, technically, United was only transporting Cook from San Francisco to Denver. And under U.S. regulations, it doesn’t owe him anything. Carrier #2 — and not to confuse the issue — is Lufthansa. It didn’t suffer any delays and didn’t lose his luggage, yet it probably owns his original ticket. That ticket was transferred to Delta and Air France after the delay. Yet at the same time, Cook is a United frequent flier and used his United miles to buy the tickets.
So is this enough compensation? From one perspective, it’s more than enough. From another, it’s hardly enough. But I’m not really sure which perspective to take.