Help! American lost my luggage and shorted me on the replacement

By | January 10th, 2017

American loses Paymon Rouhanifard’s luggage, but won’t fully compensate him for the replacements he had to buy. Can our advocates help Rouhanifard recover his unexpected costs?

Question: My wife and I flew with our two-year-old son to California on American Airlines last December to visit my parents. On our outbound flight, American lost one of our bags. This particular bag held all of our son’s clothes, diapers and toys. American did not locate the bag during our trip. We purchased replacements for the bag and all of its contents during the trip for $1,200.

We made numerous calls and emails to American and filled out its online form for a delayed bag search request. In addition, at American’s agents’ request, we forwarded them copies of all our receipts. But we didn’t hear from American for weeks. Over a month passed before American located the missing bag.

Then we learned that American was not willing to compensate us for the entire amount of our claim – only what they thought we needed during our visit to California. American’s agents didn’t specify how much they would reimburse us. Almost a year later, American still hasn’t notified us of their final decision as to how much compensation they will provide. Its agents have offered me a $100 voucher and 15,000 AAdvantage miles, but have indicated that since my claim is over $1,000, they need higher-level approval to reimburse me any additional amounts.

I’m at a loss – and beyond frustrated. Can you help us get American to reimburse us? — Paymon Rouhanifard, Camden, N.J.

Related story:   Dad's sick - why won't Allianz cover Mom's claim?
Related story:   VCR scam

Answer: I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having so much trouble with American Airlines’ customer service. You’re in good company, unfortunately; American Airlines is our most-complained-about company for 2016.

American’s conditions of carriage indicate that for missing baggage,

American’s liability for loss, damage or delayed delivery of checked baggage, including transfer baggage, is limited to the actual value of the baggage or $3,500, whichever is less, unless the passenger declares a higher value for loss of baggage, not to exceed $5,000.00 including the $3,500 standard liability per passenger and pays American a sum of $5.00 per $100.00 (or any portion thereof) of excess value.

American’s conditions of carriage mandate the following conditions for compensation to passengers for delayed or lost baggage:

In the case of delay or loss, an initial complaint must be presented to American prior to leaving the arrival airport for which the baggage was checked or should have been checked. At the latest, such initial report must be made within four hours of the arrival of the flight on which the passenger traveled. For passengers purchasing the American Airlines baggage delivery service provided through Bags VIP Luggage Delivery in advance of travel, the initial report must be made within 12 hours of the arrival of the flight on which the passenger traveled.
If compensation is sought for a delay or loss, a written claim, in the form provided by American, must be received by American no later than 45 days after the initial report was presented and recorded by American.

Since the value and timing of your claim falls within American’s limits, American should have acted promptly to reimburse you for the total amount of your claim.

Why didn’t it do so? One reason may be that your emails to American’s agents contain some strong language, which would not have been likely to move American to expedite your claim. Another may be that American is claiming that you indicated that on your return flight, its personnel were not as courteous to you as they should have been.

Given that at that time your bag was still missing, I’m wondering if you might have provoked a crew member or other employee of American. It’s understandable that the delay in resolving your claim is frustrating, but it’s never appropriate to make accusations or use sarcasm when filing a customer service complaint.

Still another issue with your claim is the fact that American seems to have had two postal addresses for you and had to ask you to clarify which one was correct.

You might have escalated your complaint using our executive contacts for American Airlines, but you asked our advocates for assistance in resolving your claim. We reached out to American Airlines on your behalf.

It took a few more months and multiple contacts by our advocates, but American has issued you a check for the amount of your claim.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.