Is this enough compensation? Refunded $800 for $2,500 worth of missing clothes

Leonard Henderson’s ski trip to Telluride, Colo., didn’t go as planned. US Airways lost his luggage and it stayed lost for the duration of the trip.

He had to buy new clothes, for which the airline promised to reimburse him, but when the time came for it to refund his purchases, US Airways balked. Henderson paid $2,500 for new gear, but the airline only covered $800.

Is that enough?

Henderson feels ripped off.

I feel like the tiny little guy versus the corporate giant. The airline will not give me an explanation of how they came up with the reimbursement figure $800.

My claims person, Pam, was by far the rudest person I have had to deal with when calling. I asked to speak with her manager and she said, “Hold please.” Minutes later she returned, to say her manager is with another customer.

So why would US Airways only repay Henderson for a portion of his luggage?

The airline “did an inventory” of his delayed luggage and told Henderson that it didn’t find the same or similar ski apparel for which he’d billed the airline. In other words, US Airways believed he was trying to take advantage of this opportunity to upgrade his outfit at the airline’s expense.

Henderson denies that. He claims US Airways only opened one bag to check its contents, and since he’d packed it for two people, the contents wouldn’t have reflected every item he had to purchase.

[US Airways’] inventory account is incomplete. But Pam said she didn’t take the inventory so she can only go by what the person wrote down. I asked her to read it verbatim and she said, “That’s all it says, sir.”

Henderson says that’s no way to treat a passenger, let alone one who was flying in first class.

If we were not on a ski trip, the cost to replace our items to prevent further delay would not have been nearly as expensive. Please understand, the location and environment both contributed greatly to the cost factor.

We exited the plane in Durango with nothing but the clothes on our backs, a hotel reservation, I.D., a carry-on backpack with our laptop and a credit card.

I’ve reviewed Henderson’s lengthy claim several times, and I can’t see anything that would suggest he’s trying to hit US Airways up for new ski clothes. His luggage was lost four days of a five-day ski trip.

But I’ve had similar cases – notably weddings, where a very expensive dress or tuxedo is misplaced, and a new one must be purchased quickly. Airlines are understandably reluctant to pay up then, too. (US Airways is liable for up to $3,300 per ticketed passenger under federal law.)

I think this situation might have been prevented through clearer communication between US Airways and Henderson. What, exactly, was he authorized to buy and when? If the airline wasn’t going to spring for the designer ski shop in Telluride, then what would it rubber-stamp? A ski jacket from Wal-Mart in Durango?

Then again, does US Airways have a point? Is $800 enough? I mean, Henderson has a brand-new outfit for next season. That’s gotta be worth something. Or is it?

(Photo: An actual image of the contents of Henderson’s luggage.)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Heather

    The airline had time, and lots of it to locate the bag. They failed to get it to it’s destination for the majority of the trip and thus are responsible for the affect it had on the traveller.

    I don’t know about most people, but I like having clean undies etc everyday and they usually don’t rent clothing out so you have to buy it. As for the price resort town = resort prices on items that were expensive to begin with. Do you really think if they lost it and it wasn’t returned and he had bought a no name jacket that they would offer more money to replace the actual brand name jacket or the cost difference between the two? I don’t think so. Also as to the laundry service they had no clothes besides the ones they wore so unless they bought new clothes they’d be running around in bathrobes provided they even had them.

  • Carrie Charney

    Absherlock is right. The replacement items should be paid for by US Airways and returned to the airline in return for the now-found luggage, assuming nothing us missing or damaged. US Airways then resells the merchandise in Alabama, e-Bay, or wherever…

  • https://plus.google.com/115197896619361127605/posts Aaron W

    $2500 in ski gear and clothing for 2 people sounds high, but not unreasonable for a 5 day trip. It’s also less than 40% of what US Airways is contractually on the hook for.

    If US Airways had a different number in mind, it should have informed the passengers of that when the airline lost the bags.

    That said, if this passenger is so well-heeled that he can fly first-class to Telluride with $2,500 in gear, then he’s got enough cash to hire an attorney to file his small claims paperwork for him and take US Airways to court for the rest of the money he’s owed.

  • DJP

    Pat….have you ever been to any ski resort town…eith Telluride, Vail, or any other during ski season?

    I am assuming no.

    They dont have walmarts or targets there or say sports authority or dicks sporting goods stores there to get equpment on the cheap.

    These places have top of the line retailers who charge a LOT for equipment or clothing.

    I dont know what all he had to replace. If what he lost was ski equipment and not just regular clothing then it will be expensive to replace.

    I do agree that if the luggage was found and they were told to wait till tomorrow for the Luggage…and USAIRWAYS would reimburse them for expenses lost that would have been a fair trade. It sounds as if the luggage missed the flight connection in Phoenix.

    The fact is USAirways generally only has at most 2 flights to Durango from Phoenix each day. USAirways HQ is in Phoenix where many there dont ski so they have no idea of the expenses.

  • Guest

    Is he “well heeled” though? For all you know he upgraded or paid for the first class flight with miles. And $2500 in gear for 2 people ($1250 each) isn’t really that much. Someone above gave a list of the stuff they take on a ski trip and the price of this stuff is high, it adds up fast.

    He shouldn’t have to fly back to Wyoming and pay for a flight and a hotel and meals, etc to get what he’s owed, they should pay him now.

  • Pat

    OK people we are going to have agree that we disagree.

    Bottom line is I believe there are two levels on how things are reimbursed. If my bag does not arrive, I am entitled to get what I need to make due until it arrives, not replacement of what was in the bag. If the luggage is then lost, you are entitled to replace what was in the bag that was lost. Two different reimbursement situations.

    When my bag did not arrive with me I got reasonably priced clothes to wear to my client. When I explained to clients why I was not in suit and tie, they understood. I had to buy two days of clothes and each morning I gave the previous day’s clothes to the hotel to launder. When I got back in the evening, they were ready for the next day. It was not the best situation but it worked out. And the airline paid for it all. One time I had to buy a discounted golf shoes to wear instead of the expensive leather golf shoes I had in my luggage. It is not what I expected when I started out, but I got by.

    Also you have to remember next time you complain about airfares, part of the reason is because people with missing luggage are expecting replacement of what was in the luggage instead of making due. That cost is passed on to the price of the ticket.

  • Mark K

    It is interesting that the US Airways liability page says they are not responsible “for the loss of, damage to, or delay in: ” EQUIPMENT among other things. So, does the gear required to ski fall under the generic Equipment category at US Air? If it does, this could explain why the payment was so low. After you take out the ski jackets, ski pants, helmets, ski gloves and anything else that could be considered equipment for skiing, maybe all that was left was $800 worth of purchases. While this may be an over generalization of what is meant by Equipment, it is most likely what was used to determine what was owed. And that is not good when you are then stuck on a ski trip and as a result of the delayed luggage have none of the necessary gear so you can’t ski.

  • K.

    I think it’s more likely that boots, skis, poles, and maybe helmets are considered equipment, while long underwear, socks, jackets, pants, goggles, gloves are considered clothing.

  • K.

    I think it’s more likely that boots, skis, poles, and maybe helmets are considered equipment, while long underwear, socks, jackets, pants, goggles, gloves are considered clothing.

  • flutiefan

    where on god’s green earth does long underwear cost $75?!

  • K.

    You may call it something else, but a bottom layer that won’t leave you wet and shivering after 30 minutes is a must for skiing. Performance clothes cost a lot, but they keep you warm and last for many years. I’m not talking about the red cotton long johns with a drop seat! :-)

  • flutiefan

    while i believe the OPs upgraded their wares, USAirways needs to reimburse what is customary, reasonable, and usual for the average prices in the area. they never gave them a specific dollar amount, which leads me to believe that the OPs just assumed full coverage and reimbursement. we all know what happens when you assume…

  • Rr32926

    They owe him the FULL amount. THEY caused the problem- THEY lost the luggage initially. THEY delayed it. THEY delivered it after. THEY ruined his vacation. Unless it has happened to you, you cannot understand it. I have had luggage lost — at the end of a vacation, and it was also damaged, and all the clothes were damaged….and it was upsetting because the clothes were expensive, but at least my trip was OVER, and oh well, that is life.
    But I also had luggage lost at the Beginning of a vacation- my first trip to Italy, and 18 months later, I am still fighting with Alitalia (DONT FLY ALITALIA) over this. They returned my lost luggage after 1 week, at the end of my ruined “vacation.” I spend the first day trying to find replacement items, missing connections….they lost ALL my luggage and they still owe me most of the money. So, yes, bottom line, if the airline loses your luggage; delays it – THEY ruin your vacation, they need to take responsibility and PAY UP.

  • Andi330

    Well, I’m probably going to get slammed for my opinion, but here it is.

    This complaint reads to me as if the OP replaced everything in his luggage as soon as they got to the resort (or on the way there). I don’t think that you’re entitled to do that. I went to the US Airways baggage page, and here’s what it says,
    http://www.usairways.com/en-US/traveltools/baggage/damagedbags.html

    “When waiting for your delayed baggage, ask a baggage representative to inform you of the reimbursement guidelines before purchasing essential items. We’ll consider reimbursement for reasonable items such as toiletries while you’re waiting for us to return your property.

    If your bags have not been located and returned within 5 days, mail or fax the Passenger Property Form to the Central Baggage Resolution Office. For reimbursement consideration, please send your receipts to this address.”

    Nowhere in the article, does it indicate what the customer was told he could purchase while waiting for his delayed luggage. Did he even ask? Or did he just assume that he could spend up to the $3,300 per person (which appears to me to be only in the case of luggage that is never found, not delayed luggage). You don’t get to file that form he’s referring to until at least 5 days have passed without your luggage being located. This indicates to me, that the higher reimbursement doesn’t take effect until the airline has decided that it won’t (or that it’s unlikely) to find your luggage at all.

    Additionally, if you read the form on the US Airways page, you see that it’s not as simple as claiming that certain things were in your bags, and then getting money for them. Anything over $150 and the airline requires an original receipt before they will pay up (and I know, I personally don’t have receipts for everything I own, even the stuff over $150).

    I’m not a frequent flyer (if I fly round-trip more than once a year I’ve been really busy), but there are some things I do know. Approximately 50% of the time I get on a plane, the airline loses my luggage. Maybe I’m special, I’m sure the industry claims that luggage delays are much less frequent than that but that’s been my personal experience. If you are checking a bag, you should assume it will be delayed. It’s not fair. You’re paying extra to check that bag, but it’s reality. The OP indicates that neither he nor his traveling companion had any changes of clothes with them when they got off the plane. This was poor planning on their end. You should always carry on any medicines you need, anything expensive you are bringing (that is not required to be checked), and at least one change of clothes. That way you have two days worth of walking around clothes with you in case your luggage is delayed.

    I’m not a big skier (it’s too expensive for one), but I know replacing all that ski gear would be expensive. It’s true, their bags were missing for most of their trip, but then, they did get all of their stuff back. Why should the airline pay for them to replace everything? If nothing else, if the airlines payed to replace everything in a person’s luggage every time a bag was delayed, we’d be paying a lot more for checked bag fees, or base fares would be much higher to cover the potential losses. And having worked for customer service (in a different industry) for 6 years, I can tell you that if you make an exception for one person, they’ll tell people. It’s great publicity, “Oh yay! Us Airways replaced all my clothes even though I got my bag back isn’t it great!” But once you’ve done it once, everyone will want it, in fact they’ll expect it, and that’s how a business ends up going under.

  • Carver

    I think you are misunderstanding the contract. It appears you are saying that in order to be reimbursed the OP must wait five days before making any purchases. That is not correct.

    You can always make whatever purchases you want. However, if the bags are located and returned before the five days is up, your purchases do not qualify for reimbursement and you may find yourself stuck with unanticipated expenses. Thus the various admonitions.

    Thus the safest course of action would be to wait five days. However, that would ruin the OPs vacation. Thus the OP chose to gamble, i.e. purchase replacement items. If the bags were located before five days then the OP would have to figure out his own finances. However, as the bags were not located within 5 days, then the OP is entitled to make a claim for the purchased items.

    As to the OP not having a change of clothes, that’s neither here nor there.

    As far as replacing items, the reason why the airline must pay is because the OP is out $2500.00 that he wouldn’t have had to spend had the airlines not lost his bags. Presumably he can’t return what was purchased as its been used for a good week. Technically, the airline could probably keep the found items but I doubt if they want his used stuff.

    But note, the airline only has to pay if the bags are lost for 5 days or more in which case its reasonable that the bags will never be found.

  • Andi330

    That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the way it reads is that you don’t just get to replace everything in your luggage on the airline’s dime as soon as it appears to have been delayed. And I don’t think you do. Yes, you can go buy some essentials. That’s why the airline’s site says to ask at the airport about their specific policy for buying essentials while your luggage is delayed. It does not say that you can just go replace everything that was in your checked bags. You have to give the airline time to find it and return it to you. In addition, the airline’s form for lost baggage does specifically state that for anything over $150 being replaced you have to have an original proof of purchase (like a receipt) showing you actually owned the lost item and what it cost you to purchase it.

    When you spend a ton of money on replacements right away, you are running the risk of not getting fully reimbursed, because the airline may find your luggage during the time frame in which they don’t have to pay. Such is life. That’s why (especially when traveling somewhere expensive) you should plan on your luggage being lost. There are bags that are small enough to carry on to a plane that could easily hold a couple of changes of clothes and 1 ski suit. You couldn’t get 5 days worth of ski clothes in there, but enough that you could get by without having to pay $2500 for clothes while you wait for the airline to deliver your luggage, even if you did have to buy a second ski suit to alternate while one drys out.

    I’m a big proponent of customers taking some responsibility for themselves. These customers did not plan for lost luggage. It’s probably something they think they shouldn’t have to do. But if you know anything at all about flying, you know there is the possibility that luggage will be lost when traveling. Just a little better planning would have saved this customer some hassle. (And some money.)

  • Jamiru

    I’m not trying to jump all over you, but if you look at my ski wear breakdown in an earlier post, just replacing one day of ski clothing (and that doesn’t include boots/poles/skis) would put me at approximately the amount the OP was claiming. So I seriously doubt he was trying to cash in on the airline’s dime.

    You do raise what would normally be a great suggestion, carry on a day’s worth of clothes, and normally I’m hyper-vigilant about doing so (I’ve had bags lost too). But the logistics of packing for a ski vacation or any sports-intensive vacation that requires a lot of gear (kayaking, camping, etc) puts you at a huge disadvantage on the packing front. In order for my husband and I to get our boots/skis/snowboards and several days worth of clothes packed in such a way that maximizes space and protects our gear, we actually pack our clothes AROUND our skis/board. If you’ve ever seen the way some airports handle them, you’d understand why (and I’m sure Chris will take up a case about broken skis someday….). So taking a bag of clothes for one day sometimes isn’t the most convenient/feasible option.

    That said, I do realize when we do that we are rolling the dice. But I also think that the restrictions on claiming reimbursement for lost/delayed bags are highly stacked against the average traveller, and it becomes even worse when you’ve got a lot of specialized gear and are going on a vacation dedicated to the use of said gear. That’s why I hope Chris will continue to publicize these cases–especially when airlines are charging for checked bags. They need to do better on this front.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MikeSzabo Michael Szabo

    If your going to nitpick and say that he should give the items back to the airline (and I fully agree with you here). I do believe that the airline would need to compensate for the time spent shopping for the items. I wouldn’t be too suprised in that case if the shopping time costs equal the resale value of used clothing the airline recieves, considering the items may have been bought at a premium at a resort (and the low resale value of clothing).

    Considering the hassle factor the airline is absolutely in the right to do this but probably should refrain due to the hassle factor for the customer.

  • Carver

    @Andi

    I must be missing something in your post. Let’s deconstruct

    “What I’m saying is that the way it reads is that you don’t just get to replace everything in your luggage on the airline’s dime as soon as it appears to have been delayed’

    No one is saying that if the luggage is delayed you get to replace everything. We are saying that is only true of its delayed 5 days or more.

    “You have to give the airline time to find it and return it to you.”

    Yes, five days.

    “When you spend a ton of money on replacements right away, you are running the risk of not getting fully reimbursed, because the airline may find your luggage during the time frame in which they don’t have to pay. ”

    Yes, and that’s the risk the OP took. For each day he waits he cannot make full use of his vacation. Personally, I would have done the same thing. I’m not letting lost luggage ruin my vacation, business trip, etc. I’ll make my necessary purchases to effect the purpose of my travel and if I get reimbursed great, if not, well, now I have double items.

    “I’m a big proponent of customers taking some responsibility for themselves”

    How about being a proponent of the airlines taking some responsibility for not delivering the bags on time?

    “There are bags that are small enough to carry on to a plane that could easily hold a couple of changes of clothes and 1 ski suit.” Which has nothing to do with whether the airline is liable for the lost items.

  • Rr32926

    But when do you think is an appropriate time? As the clock is ticking away on your “vacation” that you have planned for, waited for, and in some cases, worked all year, and waited for…and here it is…and now…you are on this “vacation” without any of your luggage. You are suggesting that they just “wait”… until “maybe” the airline “finds” it…but what if they dont? And until then, perhaps waste your “vacation” running around trying to find bargains….because that IS how you planned to spend your “vacation.” You mention “better planning.” I “planned” so well and they STILL lost my luggage. I put copies of my itinerary, copies of my id, double tagged my luggage, I did all the “right” things……..didnt matter, they still lost my luggage. And when you are in a foreign country and you dont speak the language and it is snowing and you dont have boots or the proper clothing, YOU NEED to buy clothes, and it is really difficult to find CHEAP clothes in Milan (that is where my luggage was lost), so I tried really hard to spend very little on my replacement clothes and I travelled to Parma, and it still cost a lot of money to buy toiletries, makeup, clothing, boots and shoes because they lost it ALL. Hotels in Europe dont give you toiletries at the hotels. I had to buy everything. I was told I would be reimbursed if I kept my receipts but I am still fighting 18 month later, so what would you say to me? Tough luck? NO, the correct answer is: the airlines need to pay up– in his case and in mine, and the airlines, in general need to do a better job handling luggage. Instead of making excuses for them, you should be asking why they are so irresponsible and why they are still allowed to get away with it.

  • Cheryl

    I don’t see anyone here commenting on the cost of the skis, boots, and poles or snowboard and boots!!! If they are skiers, the cost could easily hit $500 per person no problem!!! And if anyone has priced long underwear or googles, they are not cheap either! $2500 for 2 people is not gouging anyone!

  • Joelw

    Many years ago American lost the bage containing my ski clothing while on the way to Steamboat Springs. This apparently not an unusual occurence as I was directed to a local ski shop where I was able to rent most of what I needed. In truth, the one-piece suit I got was nicer than my own. When my luggage finally showed up I retruned all the rented items except the new goggles, which I was told to take to the airport on my return. I offered them to the agent but was told that they had so many that I should just keep them. USAirways should have a similar arrangement in Telluride because there are no nearby options to replace ski clothing. The closest town of any size is about 50 miles away and without a car would be hard to get to and would eat up another day of the OP’s trip. Given today’s prices, $2500 is not at all unreasonable.

  • Carver

    Just read the CoC and the other posts. The OP is entitled the reasonable value after 5 days. Whatever happens after 5 days, e.g. the luggage is found, is irrelevant.

  • Dan

    I think many commenters are overlooking something from the article. This is the source of the discrepancy:

    ——————-

    The airline “did an inventory” of his delayed luggage and told Henderson
    that it didn’t find the same or similar ski apparel for which he’d
    billed the airline.

    ——————-

    I don’t see any purpose in arguing about whether the airline or the traveler is morally responsible or whether the traveler should have rented vs. purchasing replacements or whether the traveler should have waited longer or the airline should be punished. Those are all distractions.

    The only question is this: Were the replacement items comparable to what was in his delayed luggage or not? Of course he should not replace Wal-mart gear with North Face or the other way around, but why are we all just guessing and speculating?

    Let’s see the receipts for the new stuff and compare with the inventory of the old stuff. And if he disputes the veracity of the inventory, let’s see pictures of the old stuff.

  • Cleome

    I would say the airline needs to suck it up and pay the bill. First off, you can’t expect someone to be able to find brand new replacements on short notice that match the value of existing used items in their luggage. Second, how much of their short vacation did these people have to waste shopping? They probably wouldn’t have even been able to go to their hotel and go to bed that night without getting supplies and clothing first.