Luggage lost and lessons learned

This item appears on page 27 of the December 2011 issue.

After a 21-day study tour in Israel/Palestine, I went to the Tel Aviv airport on Feb. 10, 2011, for my return flight.

The situation within the Luft­hansa terminal was chaotic, as passengers were checking in for three flights scheduled to leave Tel Aviv within 30 minutes of each other. Approximately 200 people were in one big mass, and three x-ray scanners were operating in front of the crowd. Where I was, we stood for an hour without advancing even one step.

Finally, an agent snaked her way through the masses, checking passports and boarding passes and attaching the typical circular airport-name tags to the handles of suitcases, including mine. She did not hand out receipts or baggage-claim numbers.

I fed my suitcase through one of the x-ray machines and saw it emerge at the other end, then went to the departure gate. That was the last time I saw my suitcase.

I flew nonstop from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt, Germany, on Luft­hansa. When my suitcase didn’t arrive in Frankfurt, I reported the loss at the Lufthansa counter that evening. On the computer, the agent couldn’t find a record of my suitcase alongside my name. I filled out the paperwork and was told my bag would probably be delivered the next day to my friend’s house.

I stayed with friends in Mainz until my departure to the US on Feb. 13. I had left my e-mail address with the Lufthansa baggage call center. They did not have a toll-free phone number. On the lost-baggage report, the customer is advised that calls to the center cost 0.14 euros a minute.

I heard nothing from Lufthansa.

On March 13, I discovered the e-mail address of a US office of Lufthansa Customer Relations in the February ’11 issue of ITN (page 17) and e-mailed a report that same day to

A representative responded on March 16 saying their department could not handle lost-luggage problems, but she also forwarded a claim form and said to e-mail it to in Frankfurt.

I filled out and submitted the form. I held Lufthansa responsible for 100% of the replacement cost of my suitcase and its contents. My claim was for $1,550 in reimbursement.

On April 4, a Lufthansa representative of Customer Relations North America sent an e-mail with the news that my luggage was irretrievably lost and that they would pay me $750 in restitution.

Lufthansa offered to pay only 50% of the value of my claim because I did not have the purchase receipts for my lost property. (I usually do not keep receipts for clothing for more than three months.)

The representative, Sabina Wills, wrote, “We realize that this payment does not fully cover your loss and recommend looking into the possibility of additional coverage with your credit card company, personal insurance, or baggage insurance provider.”

I sent a reply on April 7 stating that I could not replace all of my property for $750.

Ms. Wills wrote back the next day, “Please accept my sincere apologies, once again, for the stress and inconvenience caused as a result of your baggage irregularity… . However, please understand, in order to process your claim for reimbursement within airline liability, our accounting department requires original receipts of the missing items. Reimbursement for maximum liability is only offered against submission of original invoices substantiating ownership and value of the items.

“Since you no longer have the original receipts of the items contained in the missing baggage, may I suggest reviewing your credit card statements, should you have purchased the missing items with your credit card. Copies of your statements showing the purchases you made should be sufficient to accurately calculate your settlement in this case.”

After that, I sent complaints to three more office holders at Lufthansa and threatened to go to small claims court.

The check from Lufthansa arrived on April 11. In the end, I decided to accept payment of the $750.

Specifically for this trip, I had purchased a policy with Travel Insured International, and it included coverage for baggage and personal effects (up to $1,000) as well as for baggage delay (up to $300), but the airline had to pay their part first.

In my case, Lufthansa paid $750, so I expected Travel Insured to reimburse me another $250. (They, too, require original purchase receipts for a claim.) Travel Insured ended up reimbursing me $130.44.

Looking back, I should have insisted on receiving a baggage-claim stub in Tel Aviv. Also, from now on, I will keep receipts of all purchases of luggage, clothing, etc., in case I need them for a property-replacement claim.

Annandale, VA


ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Lufthansa (1640 Hempstead Turnpike, East Meadow, NY 11554). The following are excerpts from the reply.


Please note that the Montreal Convention, which applies to this situation, determines the maximum liability of a carrier in case of baggage irregularities, such as baggage loss claims. In the carriage of baggage, the liability of the carrier in the case of loss is limited to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights* for each passenger.

In analyzing claims for lost baggage, Lufthansa can require passengers to prove their claims… . Since Ms. Speir was unable to provide any receipts, or any other proof of ownership for the items, Lufthansa provided a payment of $750, which represented a goodwill payment of roughly 50% of her claimed amount.

Please know that we have taken Ms. Speir’s claim quite seriously, since our ultimate goal is to ensure that our passengers have a positive experience when flying with Lufthansa.

CHRISTINA SEMMEL, Manager, Corporate Communications North America, Deutsche Lufthansa AG/Austrian Airlines AG

*The SDR is the accounting unit of the International Monetary Fund. At press time, SDR1,131 was equivalent to €1,295, or to $1,783.