I know it happens. I know checked-in baggage may become damaged, delayed or lost. I’ve been so aware of it that I always pack an extra set of clothes in my carry-on bag just in case. Yet, when I arrive at my destination, I’ve always finally found my checked-in bags on the announced carousel.
3 weeks ago, after flying for over 8,000 miles / 14,000 km, I watched as the last luggage on the carousel was removed, and was in disbelief, puzzled, confused – I CAN’T FIND MY 2 CHECK-IN BAGS! And I need them!!
I started walking around, looking among the bags that had been lifted off and placed by the side of the carousel. An airport security officer approached me and asked if there was a problem. Now, thinking back, I guess he was more concerned that I might have been attempting to steal an unclaimed bag. But, at that time, I was relieved he had approached me. I explained that I was still waiting for my checked-in bags, and since all the other passengers on the same flight I was on had left, I was starting to worry that my bags may not be showing up.
He alerted the ground staff from the airline I’d travelled on, and two representatives from the airline showed up and asked for my baggage tags. Even though they’d asked me for a description of my bags and I’d done that, they still checked the bag tags on bags by the side of the carousel that were of different colours, size and type. A third ground staff from the airline showed up with a list of all the checked bags on my flight, checked my bag tags against each and every page, then gave me the bad news that my bags had not been loaded and were most likely still at the airport in Taiwan.
My response, “No way! NO WAY!”
One of the ground staff informed me that their airline had one more Taiwan to Los Angeles sector flight that day already en route and scheduled to arrive in 7 hours. He assured me that my bags would be on that flight and that they would be delivered to me later that day. I felt much better knowing that I’d at least have my bags before bedtime.
He walked with me and showed me where the Baggage Service Counter was. I was given a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) to fill in. My baggage claim tags were stapled to the original copy and I was issued a duplicate copy with a personal reference number. After giving them a contact number where I could be reached while in the USA, I asked for an estimated time when my bags would be delivered to me. I was told that if I didn’t mind my luggage being delivered even if it was already past midnight, they’d include that instruction. I confirmed that they should go ahead and deliver my luggage even past midnight. There were essential items that I needed that weren’t allowed in my carry-on.
I waited that night, and the next day, and a second night, and another day, and a third night…
Each time I called the phone number to the Baggage Service Counter, I was informed that my luggage had been traced to a different location! They had been erroneously loaded on to an aircraft headed from Taiwan to the JFK International Airport. But, even though my luggage was already in the USA in New York, the airline did not operate domestic flights within the USA and so my luggage had to be flown from JFK International Airport back to Taiwan, then from Taiwan to Los Angeles.
Initially, I was able to monitor my luggage via World Tracer tool using the file reference number indicated on my Property Irregularity Report (PIR). But after 48 hours, the whereabouts of my luggage did not continue to be updated. It was all very frustrating.
So much time was wasted on waiting, on having to make trips to various shops to buy essentials such as toiletries, underwear, change of clothes, on having to hand wash the very limited sets of clothing I had every day, on emailing the airline, on calling for updates, and on worrying. My luggage was finally delivered to me 69 hours after my flight landed at LAX.
And then I spent even more hours and days of my vacation time in the USA filing a mishandled baggage claim with the airline seeking reimbursement for the essential items I had to purchase while waiting for my delayed luggage. I uploaded receipts for each item. In response, the airline offered their daily limit of USD$30 per day. I learned from this experience that airlines, in general, have very limited liability with regards to delayed luggage. Lesson learned: Never skip buying travel insurance!