It’s been a full year since the last time I’ve flown Delta, and in case you were wondering how our luggage follies turned out, I figured I’d give you an update. After all, if you travel frequently, you’ve undoubtedly had your bag lost at some point. If you’re a frequent Delta traveler, I’d say the likelihood of lost luggage increases tenfold.
I had a particularly tumultuous summer of 2014 with Delta. Between Memorial Day and mid-July, I flew a dozen legs with the airline (not my choice). The majority were delayed significantly. One was canceled entirely (on a holiday weekend, no less). When I was going to NYC for a wedding. I reiterate: ON A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Delta couldn’t have been less helpful in getting us to our final destination. But the big kicker was when we spent more than 250,000 coveted airline mile to get to Europe for SVV’s 40th birthday … and then they lost our bag. For four days. Rather, they sent one bag to JFK and the other to Venice. To clarify, we were flying direct from Atlanta to Rome. So that made sense.
When we arrived in Rome, I received an email that our luggage did not. The message said to go to the Delta desk, only there was no Delta desk at the Rome airport to even help us remedy the problem. We were redirected to Alitalia instead—an airline nearly as worthless as Delta—where they just shrugged their shoulders and told us we’d have to call Delta back in the US for any assistance. Problem was it was early hours of the morning. On a Saturday. Good luck getting anyone on the phone before Monday.
The locals waiting on Delta along with us. Sorry, sisters, but you’re gonna be waiting a long time!
After our driver waited patiently with us for several hours and attempted to help us with the situation, we were getting close to embarkation time on the Royal Clipper. So we left, our hands empty save our electronic devices we carried on. We wound up spending the first few days on our cruise ship borrowing clothes from my sister and her fiance. Star Clippers could not have been kinder; they sent up complimentary amenities kits and even a shirt for each of us.
SVV even resorted to wearing a dress. It was a low point for us both, for sure.
Our baggage finally arrived sometime on the fourth day, after we had spent hundreds of dollars in international calls on our cells. We figured we’d worry about getting compensation for all that we spent in the meantime once we arrived home.
Smiles all around when our clothes finally arrived.
Only problem is that once we had our bags, that’s when Delta really ignored us. Over the phone. Over Twitter. Over email. It’s frustrating. In order to file a claim, they said we needed “the folder the airline rep gave us at the airport.” Well, newsflash, Delta; there was no rep at the Rome airport, hence why we were in this predicament in the first place.
I was more than a little frustrated. We tallied the bills in Verizon charges and clothes purchased on expensive Mediterranean islands where buying resort wear was essentially our only choice, and it totaled well over $500. I was going to get compensation, dammit, and SVV was, too.
At least our 200-person ship had a small store with clothing available for purchase.
So I finally reached out to ombudsman and airline expert Chris Elliott, who has helped me in plenty a predicament before, and he sent me his list of corporate contacts. Finally, finally, at the end of September—more than three months after the delayed baggage—I received a note back from Gina Rubino in the customer service department. Here is what she said:
Thank you for your comments to Jason. I’ve been asked to respond to you. It must’ve been so frustrating to arrive into Rome and realize your luggage wasn’t there, to encounter a lack of ownership to help you, incur expenses until your bag arrived, and to have a disruption on your trip home, after having a major disruption earlier over Memorial Day weekend.
As SkyMiles members, you know the service we strive to provide and we appreciate your loyalty over the years. I’m sorry that upon arrival into Rome, you learned that your luggage wasn’t there. Our goal is to have your luggage arrive with you and I understand this was a very negative start to your vacation. So that your concerns receive the appropriate handling, I’ve forwarded your concerns to our Executive Baggage team. My peer will follow up with the items related to this luggage delay with you directly.
I’m sorry you also had two recent occasions where your travel was disrupted. We want our customers to have an enjoyable travel experience and arrive to their destination on time. However, we will never compromise the safety of our passengers in order to maintain a schedule. The Pinnacles Airlines Flight 3375 was cancelled due to crew reasons and Flight 2176 on July 11 was delayed due to mechanical issues. If a disruption should occur, we should work to place you on the first available flight to your destination. I realize for your trip over Memorial Day Weekend, this was truly a struggle. I’m glad they found an option the following morning but I recognize that on both occasions, your plans regarding your attendance of weddings were negatively impacted. I’d be very disappointed as well if this had happened to me.
We Hear You
I’ve passed your comments directly to the Nashville and Atlanta Airport Customer Service and Reservations leadership teams, so they can consider your experience when making needed changes to improve our service.
As a goodwill gesture, I’m adding 20,000 bonus miles to your SkyMiles accounts. They should be transferred into your accounts within three business days.
Kristin and Scott, we value your business. Despite these issues, I hope your time in Europe was lovely. We look forward to serving you better in the future. Again, you will hear from our Executive Baggage team regarding your luggage delay in the near future.
You Share, We Care
While I do appreciate her addressing my concerns one by one—of which, there were many—20,000 miles? You’ve got to be kidding me. You can’t buy anything for 20,000 miles on Delta—not to mention the fact that I’m never flying with them again. I wrote her back and said while I appreciated her gesture, a) 20,000 miles doesn’t get me a flight on Delta (truth; the base rate to get to Hawaii from the mainland, for example, is 65,000 miles one way), and b) miles hardly replenish my bank account after all the expenses we accrued on international calls, hiring a driver to wait for us five extra hours
I told her as much, and here was “Gina’s” kind response back (gag):
I know you feel like the 20,000 Bonus Miles offer wasn’t adequate compensation. We strive to be fair and consistent when offering any goodwill gesture. We previously had provided you 5,000 bonus miles each for your disruption. In light of your comments, I had added another 20,000 bonus miles to allow you to have 25,000 bonus miles total. This is the minimum miles required for mileage redemption for a domestic roundtrip within the 48 contiguous United States. Respectfully, we are unable to honor your request for further compensation.
In regards to your expense and inconvenience via your luggage delay, you should be hearing from my peer Donovan on our Executive Baggage team. He will be addressing this aspect of your concerns.
Again, I’m sorry you were greatly inconvenienced. We value your loyalty and we hope you will allow us another opportunity to welcome you aboard in the future.
Value my loyalty? Gina, you must have heard me wrong. I’ll never be flying your P.O.S. airline again. NEVER.
We escalated the situation. SVV probably called once a week for months until we finally were put in touch with Donovan Butler, Sr. Claims Manager of Consumer Affairs – Baggage, who preferred to talk over the phone (likely so we didn’t have written record of the conversation), offered us $250 in compensation and said he was being extremely generous as most passengers would never get such money. Geez, thanks Donovan for your generosity.
But it wasn’t enough. Here’s SVV’s response:
I’ve thought about it, and here is what I think is fair in light of you having to justify the expense to your internal audit without receipts. $500 each passenger plus the travel points credit you mentioned. That is only $125 per day per person—four days in Europe without luggage—which isn’t enough for one dress shirt at Ponza, our first island stop from the airport.
The thing is, Donovan, it wasn’t just the expenses of supplying clothing for the formal dinners on the ship for both of us. It was also the lost time spent waiting for one bag to arrive in Rome (fees extra for the pre-arranged driver we had waiting to take us to the port, which is outside the normal range of a taxi). but also the fact that we had to shop for clothing instead of enjoying our vacation. Believe me, I’d much rather have been laying on the beach.
Anyway, you seem reasonable. And I’m being reasonable here, considering what happened.
“They owe you way more for delayed luggage than they’ll offer to pay. If your bag is delayed, not lost, airlines will try to placate you with $25 or $50 per day. But the DOT says it’s not enough to salvage a wedding, a ski trip, or an important business trip. These companies can owe you up to $3,300 in liability for a domestic US trip, so long as you’ve got receipts to prove you needed that stuff. Looks like upon arrival, a new tuxedo is in order. (You always wear Armani…)”
SVV’s new resort wear, purchased on the very expensive Ponza island.
Funny, they never even offered us a paltry $25 a day, let alone a toothbrush. And yet…
We persevered. In January, I received a check from Delta for $1,000 (that’s $500 apiece for each of us).
I couldn’t believe my lucky(?) stars. I didn’t think we’d ever get a penny, let alone a four-figure check. I deposited it outright before they could cancel the check.
Long story short, how to avoid your bags going missing? Well, to start…
1. Pack only with a carry-on. This is generally the rule of thumb I always follow, but this time around—three weeks in Europe, revisiting SVV’s former stomping grounds—we wanted to do a little shopping and decided we’d each check a suitcase. In the words of Julia Roberts: Big mistake. Huge.
2. Know your rights. I found this article in the New York Post helpful with knowing exactly what you are entitled to by DOT in each situation. Still, it doesn’t really help, I suppose, when the airline won’t respond to you, as was our case those first three months.
3. Save all receipts. They’ll demand to know how much you spent, even though they’re required to compensate you a set fee per day.
4. Also, save your luggage tags. You know the stickers you tear off of your baggage once you finally receive it? DON’T THROW THOSE AWAY. Delta required all copies of everything from us, including our boarding passes (even though it all should be in their system already).
5. File a complaint on the airline’s website. Do this first, however know they likely won’t get back to you, and also track down and email corporate. In Delta’s case, the email address is Delta.OnlineSupport@delta.com.
6. File a complaint with DOT. George Hobica of Airfare Watchdog sent me this link about delayed baggage and said if enough people complained to DOT, Delta would get fined (similar to this situation with Alitalia, who funny enough was the one who handled our situation—and poorly at that—since they’re a Delta partner and Delta has no office in Rome).
7. Never fly Delta. This should actually be #1, but it’s the most important of all. One year this weekend and I’ve been Delta free! Feels like an addiction I should have kicked long ago, and I’m happy to be on the other side.