Dude, Where’s My Bag?

It was bound to happen eventually. I fly relatively often. Maybe I could blame it on mercury retrograde. But after returning from an amazing trip to Mexico City late Tuesday night, I watched the baggage carousel lazily go round and round, with no sign of my backpack.

The truth is, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I handed over my bag at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. The scene was a total clusterf*ck. The agent was clearly overwhelmed and disorganized, and he barked at me to put my bag on top of a suitcase on a luggage cart. “Are you sure?,” I deliberately asked, “Are you sure I don’t have to do anything else?” “No! No! It’s fine,” as he whisked my bag away.

I calmly went to the counter at LaGuardia to notify them that my bag wasn’t there. The agent informed me that they “didn’t have time” to get my bag on the plane, and assured me that it would come to the address specified early the next morning. Not true, exactly, since the flight was delayed for three hours. But I thought it would be fine and hopped in a cab.

The next morning, my bag didn’t arrive. I received a robocall that afternoon, stating that it would arrive in a few hours. I left work late, still nothing. The next morning, I checked the website listed on the Property Irregularity Receipt. It said that the bag had been given to the delivery service. So I called. Kathy snarled that the bag had already been delivered to the reception desk in my building. I maintained that it had not. After several minutes, she decided to expend a bit of energy and called the courier service. It would, in actuality, arrive by noon, she said. As the day drew to a close, I phoned again. Apparently Stan was inconvenienced by my call (nap time?). I told him I was disappointed in the service I was receiving, and he hung up on me. I searched the website, wrote to Customer Relations, and contacted American Airlines on Twitter. It was difficult to navigate and understand my options.

I will pause for a moment here to mention that part of my day job involves managing a hotline. People call when they are in crisis. And I worked in hospitality for over a decade. I am certain that American Airlines gets calls from people who are very upset or frustrated when their bags are lost. The agents ought to be compassionate and helpful. I was very calm and, ultimately, I was appalled by the level of disinterest the agents displayed. Most customer service errors can be remedied by apologizing and taking steps to ameliorate the situation. Training and quality assurance are fundamentals of maintaining a consistent, high level of service. I would recommend that the airline begins by reading Danny Meyer’s book on hospitality, Setting the Table.

On day four, I reached an agent who was helpful. But my bag still didn’t arrive, hours after the time specified. So I began to look into other options. I contacted my credit card company, which was extremely friendly (I’m pretty sure that Citibank has quietly retooled their training program), but unable to do anything until after I file a claim with the airline. I contacted the airline again to see if I would quality for any interim expenses (I had to urgently fill a very expensive prescription and my doctor was out of the country, so I couldn’t get a generic version). Unfortunately, medicines are one of the many items that are not covered by the airline, according to their liability statement. So, as a disciple of the itdoesn’thurttoask society, I inquired about miles or a travel voucher for the inconvenience. No dice. I asked about reimbursement for other expenses incurred while waiting for my bag to come (if it comes) and, after speaking with her supervisor, the agent approved a $100 allowance for clothing. Since most of the summer clothes I can still fit in were in that bag, I will take them up on that. I will have to submit receipts, the claim ticket, and the property receipt by snail mail to Dallas Fort Worth, where it all began.

After five days pass, you can file a claim. I waited until after the weekend. That seemed to be the trigger to spring them into action. I had a helpful customer service rep, and then, finally, I received a call in the evening that my bag had been located (again). The agent said that it had gone to the wrong delivery service, was re-routed back to LaGuardia, and would be sent out the following day (even though the name of the delivery service was the same one I was given initially). After nine days of fumbling, I received my bag with all of its contents.

A day or so after that, I received a $150 travel voucher from American Airlines because of my customer service complaint, which I appreciate.

Lessons learned:

  • There is very little that agents can or will do until 5 days after your luggage is lost.
  • Reimbursements for incurred expenses might be possible. Find out.
  • The airline should compensate you for the inconvenience. Ask.

5 thoughts on “Dude, Where’s My Bag?

  1. There should be some sort of travel rule that they warn people about: “if you have a bad feeling, listen to it.”

    I had the same exact thing happen – I had such a bad feeling that the bags were going to be lost, I knew something was not right with how the clerk was handling it, even expressed my concerns to the people with me.

    Everyone thought I was being paranoid…until we ended up in a foreign country without any clothes for two days.

    We should spread the word: “listen to your instincts when checking in bags.”

    • Exactly!

      I didn’t mention this in the post, but I have a bad habit of putting just about everything I can in my checked bag, including my house keys (I know, I know). Thankfully, that morning I had a feeling that I should put them in my carry on bag. Otherwise, I would have been locked out at one am.

      I think listening to your instincts is true about safety in general. Always trust them.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • You are welcome 🙂

        And “phew!” for the house keys! That would have been one frustrating loss indeed! I put my cell phone in my bag once – *genius* – and of course, it was stolen.

        I got to the point that I always travel with a carry on that has all I could need for a few days if my bags get lost.

        Safe (and loss-free) travels to you!

      • Thanks, you too. 🙂 Yup, lesson learned.

        I would have brought it on board, but I had bottles of tequila and mezcal! Evil liquids. Can I get a TSA refund? Jaja.

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