I was not born yesterday. Elvira Nurbayeva, the manager of the Kazakh airline’s corporate communications company, had already passed on documentation from WorldTracer, an international service that works with airlines to track down lost luggage, and says your bags were left in Newark. The reason: that you “DO NOT CLAIM AND CHECK IN FOR INTL FLT.” This “obviously means that the passenger should have received baggage upon arrival in Newark,” Ms Nurbayeva wrote. So you blamed United, United blamed Astana and Astana blamed you.
But when I went back to United with the additional details, things changed. In a statement, the spokeswoman admitted that the bags had actually been tagged to Atyrau, but had not been transferred correctly. And then:
“If this happens, we will work hard with our interline partners to connect customers to their baggage as quickly as possible, including compensation for the delayed baggage. We sincerely apologize for the frustration this has caused.”
A few days ago you let me know what happened next: United and Astana agreed to reimburse you $3,000, or $1,500 for each mishandled bag.
I’m happy for you, and I think your argument about United’s policies is reasonable, but I’m not convinced and uncomfortable with this decision because I’m afraid it doesn’t mark the beginning of an era where airlines make generous payments to anyone suffering over lost luggage.
George Hobica, founder of the cheap travel site Airline ticket watchdog, agreed. He was shocked to learn that United agreed to pay the full amount. He suspects that the control of a certain major newspaper may have played a role. Airlines are required to refund you a reasonable amount for items you had to buy, he noted, but you had told me the number of items was less than $75.
“She is entitled to compensation for her $75, but not for pain and suffering,” he said. “We are all going through pain and suffering these days.” Legally speaking, Mr. Hobica to stand on firm ground. The 1999 Montreal Convention, for international travel and signed by all three countries on your route, states that a refund is due “if the carrier admits the loss of the checked baggage, or if the checked baggage has not arrived after the expiration of 21 days.” (For domestic flights, the Department of Transportation) has similar rulesgiving airlines leeway to decide when to declare baggage “lost”.)