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Dealing with Airlines to get Reimbursement

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Published: Nov 25, 2022 / By Andrew Doering

Introduction

While I would say I am in no way an expert at this, I have gone through two airline reimbursement processes while getting the full refund amount. Here is my step by step process.

My “Guide”

File a Property Irregularity Report (PIR)

This is the beginning of everything, if you do not do this at the airport before you leave, you will not get very far.

This documents the bag, the contents, the color, the make/model, and other details regarding it. Be sure to ask to view the print out of the claim before you leave. Airline representatives are usually not filing these accurately, and if they make a mistake - it could cost you the bag or the claim.

Make a full list of items in your delayed, damaged, or lost luggage

As soon as possible, make a full list of items in your luggage. This will come in handy when you make the claim - as you can show how many items were in the bag, the context for the lost luggage, and the damage caused. If you can provide receipts for those items, it is even better, however - it isn’t required.

Usually, I write it up so that it looks something like this, feel free to copy it

Columns:

  • Type of Item
  • QTY
  • Description
  • Color
  • Size
  • Material
  • Manufacturer
  • Location Purchase
  • Date Purchased
  • Estimated Total Cost
  • Sum Total Cost

This outlines every item that you could possibly include and details around it.

Purchase “reasonable” replacement articles

Reasonable could be anything, the airline is going to try and decline it no matter what it is (whether it is a pair of underwear or a 3 piece suit). But don’t buy $1,000.00 of items for 2 days worth of a delayed bag.

In both of my trips, I was travelling with a suit, as I was attending a Funeral initially, and then subsequently a Wedding. It is at this point to purchase a replacement suit due to the context of the trip. Just be reasonable, but don’t be conservative.

Submit a claim on the Airline’s website

This might be complicated - depending on the airline, for example, KLM has a website that doesn’t support Booking Codes from Codeshare partners. Instead, you are required to go through their “Contact” page. Which you would assume you need to click on the “Lost Baggage” portion, but in fact you actually need to click “Refunds, Complaints, and Suggestions”.

Lufthansa on the other hand, is more straight forward and they have a whole page outlined for this.

(Optionally) Upload the receipts that have been purchased up until this point. Don’t worry, you can continue to purchase additional clothing items/articles, or you can wait until they reach out or you have your articles of clothing to provide the receipts. You have a legal right to 21 days for delayed bags or 2 years for lost bags. Don’t worry, I will explain this and get into it later.

Wait

You are going to have to wait for a while. Unfortunately.

Wait at a “reasonable” amount of time. I usually, wait 29 days.

File a local government complaint

If you are a US Citizen:

However, there exist several different sites that you can use:

For the Department of Transportation complaint, you might have to wait up to two weeks to get a response. However, Airlines are required to respond to both the Governmental Agency, and you. If they do not, file another governmental complaint above.

In the mean time, you can read over the following because it will be super helpful in the future:

These all will come in handy later.

What you are hoping to receive from one of them should looks something like this:

This responds to your communication regarding Lufthansa. The U.S. Department of Transportation seeks to ensure that all airline passengers are treated fairly. Complaints from consumers are helpful to us in determining whether the airlines are in compliance with our rules and to track trends or spot areas of concern that warrant further action.

Based on the information you have provided your complaint appears to fall under the Department’s rules. We will forward your complaint to the airline and ask the company to respond directly to you with a copy to us. Airlines are required to acknowledge receipt of a consumer complaint within 30 days and provide a substantive response to the complainant within 60 days. We will review the airline’s response. Due to the unprecedented number of complaints we have received in recent months, we are unable to accept telephone calls and are not able to respond promptly to email inquiries regarding specific issues in each individual’s case.

File a Credit Card Insurance Claim

Almost all Visa Credit Cards offer Travel Insurance at higher than the Montreal Convention allowed limits. You usually can get up to $4,000.00 in claim reimbursements depending on the card.

Refer to your credit card’s benefits page - there are too many in the wild to list here. I would generally recommend using a Chase credit card for travel, it’s been the best experience anytime I have had an issue.

Airline responds

You will get a lot of excuses but usually the conversations will start with one of the following:

We can imagine how stressful this must have been for you. We sincerely apologize for the delayed delivery of your baggage as well as the associated inconveniences.

Liability for baggage is clearly regulated by law, and we must fulfil certain criteria in order to be able to meet your request for compensation. The passenger must indicate the damage amount and prove it with the help of receipts, e.g. sales receipts or credit card receipts. As much as we understand your irritation, we are unable to comply with your request for reimbursement of the expenses for your replacement purchases. We are therefore unable to compensate your expenses without any receipts.

We hope for your understanding that we cannot pay damage compensation under these circumstances. We nevertheless hope to welcome you on board a Lufthansa flight again soon.

(This was after I even uploaded receipts)

Or something like this…

Thank you for your correspondence dated 22th August 2022 referenced above, received in our Customer Care Department on 31st October 2022, concerning the report petition from the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding a lost luggage, following a complaint submitted by the passenger, (PIR: OMIT).

We are pleased to offer the refund of USD 800 corresponding to the expenses incurred as a result of the irregularity experienced. Please send us your IBAN in Europe or your complete address in the USA to send a check instead.

If the amount offered does not cover the value of your loss, according to the current legislation, the passenger must prove the damage suffered. If this is the case, we invite you to provide us with proof (purchase receipts) of the items for our consideration and for an adjustment of the amount offered within the limit of liability established by the Convention in force.

We trust this information will be to your satisfaction. Air France-KLM remains at your disposal should you require any further information or clarification.

I have been told that I needed to send the articles of clothing back..

We would like to inform you that it is our policy to reimburse reasonable, necessary purchases while without your bag at 100%, up to maximum liability per the Montreal Convention, upon return of your purchases (excluding toiletries and undergarments) to the address listed below. Should you prefer to keep the items, we will be pleased to issue reimbursement at 100% for toiletries and undergarments and 50% for clothing due to future continued use. At your convenience, please reply back with the necessary bank details to the above email address listing the reference number 35379053 in the subject line in order to proceed.

You

  • Be courterous, curt, and prompt with all information, travel context, receipts, etc
  • Make sure information is accurate, and if it is not, send a follow up email as soon as possible
  • Save all information and exchanges - you might need to reference it later
  • Do not take any phone calls related to the complaint, purely discuss over email
  • Demand fair payment, without quoting any of the above referenced material.
  • Be confident and critical in your responses
  • Set timelines for responses
  • Respond within 24 to 36 hours of their response to you
  • Be persistent

Being persistent is key, they accept you to just deal with the money being offered. However you are absolutely entitled to what you deserve. Go for it!

Some tactics I have used in the past:

What is the obligated time frame that airlines are required to respond to after a complaint is submitted to them? Within 30 days of the complaint, 60, 90, 120, 150? After 2 D.O.T. complaints are submitted?

All of these options resulted in no response to me. This could have been handled successfully by August 23rd had you responded initially.

So under the current guidelines, you’re offering to reimburse not even 1/4 the cost of what it takes to reimburse the value of the lost luggage, but also not even half of what the total maximum amount required by law?

I gave you an address two times in my first reply to you and second follow-up with documents, please use that address. I think you should search for it. To help with that, search for the key phrase:

There is no clause regarding percentages pertaining to specific aspects of garments. Due to the fact that you took more than 30 days to respond, given that your internal policy cannot supersede the international law/treaty, and I am also no longer located in a place where I could return articles of clothing - nor would I expect them to take back clothes due to “an airline won’t reimburse me due to internal treaties law” statement. I would expect the 100% of reimbursement for all items.

Please provide that policy on Lufthansa Letterhead (in PDF or DOCX format).

Provide instructions/steps to navigate to that policy from lufthansa.com - as I cannot find any information that represents 50% reimbursement for clothing on your website from either a Google search or navigating your web page - which would go against the Montreal Convention.

Provide information on what Lufthansa does with the clothes following receiving them

Provide information on the process Lufthansa takes after processing the clothes received?

Provide information on why Lufthansa requires clothes to be shipped to them for 100% reimbursement?

Provide information on how Lufthansa would make a bank transfer in either 100% of the amount or make 2x 50% transfers (totalling 100%)?

Does this same policy apply to lost bags (eg return clothes to receive 100% compensation)?

What is Lufthansa take / stance on the Montreal Convention (as this “policy”to seems to be in direct conflict with agreement or at least a pretty way to circumvent the times for 100% reimbursement)?

How will I receive compensation or reimbursement for shipping the package to your address?

If you don’t provide reimbursement, will you send a pre paid box to collect the items?

Will you be providing a direct contact (eg, Name, direct number with extension, direct contact email - not distribution list or mailing list) to confirm receipt of the items?

If a pre paid box is not available, will you be sending a courier and if so what are the details around this?

How do you classify undergarments - as a t-shirt can be an undergarment if with undera sweatshirt or jacket, as can shorts if written under sweat pants or rain pants?

How do you classify clothing?

How are you coming to the total of $179.64 - as this is not 100% of “undergarments” + 50% of “clothing”?

Other things you should attempt:

  • Outline any attempted contact methods and support methods that failed
  • Who has reached out (especially if any third parties also reached out)
  • Re-reference original emails

Pull out all the stops

Usually this conversation will go on for weeks (or months if the airline is just really crap - Schipol based airlines). When they continue to refuse payment of the necessary amount, hit them with these two items.

In addition, there are numerous articles conflicting with your statement on the current processes of reimbursement:

Here are a few more for good measure:

Please proceed to discuss internally, however, if you fail to incorrectly quote or provide inaccurate representation of the Montreal Convention again… I will CC the D.O.T. representative again and file another complaint with the Department of Transportation, showing that you failed to properly reimburse with receipts.

For delayed or lost baggage:

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The Montreal Convention stipulates that you should get all of your expenses (with receipts) covered up to a maximum of 1288 special drawing rights (about $1800) as outlined here: 

Pursuant to the 2019 review of the limits of liability conducted by ICAO under Article 24 of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, done at Montréal on 28 May 1999 (Doc 9740) (Montreal Convention of 1999), the revised limits of liability established under Articles 21 and 22 of the said Convention, in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), effective as of 28 December 2019, are as set out in the fourth column of the following table: 

https://www.icao.int/secretariat/legal/Pages/2019_Revised_Limits_of_Liability_Under_the_Montreal_Convention_1999.aspx, last updated in 2019

For exceeded timelines of reimbursement claims:

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Article 35 — Limitation of Actions
1. The right to damages shall be extinguished if an action is not brought within a period of two
years, reckoned from the date of arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft
ought to have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.
2. The method of calculating that period shall be determined by the law of the court seised of
the case.

https://www.iata.org/contentassets/fb1137ff561a4819a2d38f3db7308758/mc99-full-text.pdf

Other Resources

Claims for damaged bags must be submitted within 7 days, delayed baggage within 21 days. Bags lost for longer than 21 days are considered lost, and you will then have 2 years to file a claim.

https://www.airhelp.com/en-int/montreal-convention/#:~:text=Claims%20for%20damaged%20bags%20must%20be%20submitted%20within%207%20days%2C%20delayed%20baggage%20within%2021%20days.%20Bags%20lost%20for%20longer%20than%2021%20days%20are%20considered%20lost%2C%20and%20you%20will%20then%20have%202%20years%20to%20file%20a%20claim

If your delayed luggage doesn’t show up after 21 days or if the airline acknowledges that it is missing, your luggage is declared lost. You then have 2 years to file a compensation claim under the Montreal Convention, counting from the end of your trip.

https://www.claimcompass.eu/en/passenger-rights/montreal-convention/#luggage:~:text=If%20your%20delayed%20luggage%20doesn%E2%80%99t%20show%20up%20after%2021%20days%20or%20if%20the%20airline%20acknowledges%20that%20it%20is%20missing%2C%20your%20luggage%20is%20declared%20lost.%20You%20then%20have%202%20years%20to%20file%20a%20compensation%20claim%20under%20the%20Montreal%20Convention%2C%20counting%20from%20the%20end%20of%20your%20trip

How long after the accident/flight disruption can I claim compensation? Under MC99, damages are extinguished if action is not brought within 2 years from arrival at destination. This means that you will have 2 years from the date of your arrival to collect the necessary documentation and file your claim.

https://skyrefund.com/en/blog/montreal-convention-international-flights#:~:text=How%20long%20after,file%20your%20claim

The End Result

What you want to see:

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I have consulted with my manager and we have agreed to reimburse you the full amount of OMIT.

For passengers who reside in Europe, we would require Swift and IBAN account numbers in order to process a bank transfer. For passengers who reside in the USA or Canada, we would require the bank routing and account number. Therefore, we still would require the routing number from your bank in order to proceed.
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To make amends for the inconvenience you have experienced OMIT, we are pleased to offer you the following:

Summary

Hopefully this helps you prepare some material that you can use to help you with your reimbursement. Especially during the upcoming winter travel season.