Al­i­talia lost my lug­gage, and now it won’t pay

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel - By Christo­pher El­liott Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Trav­eler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­liott.org, or email him at [email protected]­liott.org.

A: Al­i­talia should have never lost your lug­gage in the first place. But if it did, then it should have promptly cut you a check for the amount it owed you un­der the law.

The Mon­treal Con­ven­tion to which you re­fer sets the limit for com­pen­sa­tion at 1,131 SDR (Spe­cial Draw­ing Rights) per tick­eted pas­sen­ger. An SDR is an in­ter­na­tional form of pay­ment, de­fined as a weighted av­er­age of var­i­ous con­vert­ible cur­ren­cies, that was cre­ated by the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund. The value of an SDR fluc­tu­ates with those con­vert­ible cur­ren­cies.

You did a nice job with your ini­tial griev­ance. You filed a miss­ing lug­gage claim im­me­di­ately (you have seven days to do so un­der the rules). And, you gave Al­i­talia more than enough time to find your miss­ing bags. Un­der the Mon­treal Con­ven­tion, Al­i­talia should have de­clared your be­long­ings lost after 21 days. It took 50 days to do so.

Last Au­gust I flew from Palermo to Rome on Al­i­talia. My checked lug­gage did not ar­rive.

In Oc­to­ber, Al­i­talia con­sid­ered the bag lost and promised to com­pen­sate me in ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sions and lim­i­ta­tions set in the Mon­treal Con­ven­tion. The max­i­mum li­a­bil­ity for what it calls “lug­gage mis­han­dling” is $1,579. Al­i­talia agreed to mail me a check for that amount within five days.

Weeks passed, but I have not re­ceived a check. It’s now been four months since Al­i­talia lost my lug­gage.

I’ve called the air­line sev­eral times to ask about the pay­ment, but have heard noth­ing. Any­thing you can do to speed up the de­liv­ery would be ap­pre­ci­ated.

— Jef­frey Reed, Lawrenceville, N.J.

But let’s take a step back from this claim that seemed to take for­ever. Why en­trust your bag to an air­line in the first place? OK, it’s true that air­lines are los­ing fewer bags, thanks to bet­ter track­ing tech­nol­ogy, but they haven’t fixed the prob­lem. So you still pay the air­line to check your bag and then wait 50 days for them to tell you what you al­ready know? There’s some­thing wrong with this pic­ture.

Maybe we’re bet­ter off pack­ing less and bring­ing our be­long­ings on the plane as a carry-on. That’s what the savvi­est busi­ness trav­el­ers do. If they have more to carry, they use FedEx, UPS or a lug­gage de­liv­ery ser­vice. If their lug­gage gets lost, the claims process is much faster. You should also con­sider a good travel in­sur­ance pol­icy, which will re­im­burse you quickly for ex­penses re­lated to lost lug­gage.

Bot­tom line: No one should have to wait four months for promised com­pen­sa­tion from an air­line. You could have reached out to Al­i­talia in writ­ing — no calls — and asked for your money. A brief, po­lite email to one of the Al­i­talia ex­ec­u­tive con­tacts might have worked.

I con­tacted Al­i­talia on your be­half, and its records show that it mailed you a check three months after your flight (still re­ally late). It ap­pears the postal ser­vice had some trou­ble read­ing the la­bel, which re­sulted in the check be­ing re­turned.

You be­lieve Al­i­talia would have kept the money if you hadn’t con­tacted me, and I sus­pect you’re right about that. Al­i­talia sent the check to your ad­dress again. This time, it ar­rived.

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