ITA Airways lost my luggage. Why won’t it cover my expenses?

Jacqueline Bartolini spends $992 after ITA Airways loses her luggage. It wants to reimburse her for just $733.

  • By Wire Service
  • Saturday, June 22, 2024 1:30am
  • Life

Q: I recently flew from Rome to Palermo, Italy, on ITA Airways. Unfortunately, my luggage did not. I filed a claim immediately at Palermo Airport. I didn’t receive my luggage until the end of my trip a week later.

Since my luggage was missing the entire trip, I had to make purchases, including luggage. My coat was in my suitcase. Thank God another woman on my tour lent me her coat. The weather was cold with heavy rain.

So many things that I needed were difficult to purchase because we returned from tours late in the day. I think I did a good job of keeping my cost of purchases to a minimum, but I still spent $992. I have copies of my receipts.

ITA Airways wants to reimburse me $733. I’d like to be fully reimbursed. Can you help me?

— Jacqueline Bartolini, Bradenton, Florida

A: ITA Airways is liable for the entire $992. Under the Montreal Convention, if an airline loses, damages or delays your checked luggage, you’re entitled to compensation up to an amount of about $1,400 (unless there’s damage caused by an “inherent” defect in the baggage).

Bottom line: If you can prove that you purchased these items while you were waiting for your luggage, ITA Airways should cover them.

Unfortunately, airlines don’t always pay what they’re supposed to. They may scrutinize your list of items and say, “We don’t think you really needed that.” Looking at your list, I can see a few items that might have raised eyebrows, including $85 in cosmetics, a $6 mirror and a pair of shoes for $172. However, you were careful to document each purchase and noted the reasons for buying each item.

I think ITA Airways needed to tell you why it wouldn’t cover certain items, but I don’t see it justifying its decision not to reimburse you anywhere in your correspondence with the airline.

You might have avoided these problems by traveling light and carrying your luggage on the plane. I know this sounds unreasonable, but take it from someone who lives out of his luggage — it’s doable.

I know very experienced travelers who never check their luggage. They buy any toiletries they need at their destination if it exceeds 3.4 ounces, like a large tube of toothpaste or a bottle of shampoo. (I have all my liquids in 3.4-ounce, airplane-safe containers.)

You could have appealed this to an executive at ITA Airways. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the ITA Airways executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

Given that ITA Airways didn’t really explain why it shorted you $259, I thought it was worth asking. So I did. After you reached out to my consumer advocacy team, we checked with ITA Airways. At first, the airline said it couldn’t refund you because it didn’t have documentation for some items. But it did have them, and you showed them the receipts again.

Finally, 10 months after you lost your luggage, ITA Airways sent us the following statement: “ITA Airways apologizes for the disruption and confirms that the customer will receive a refund for the expenses related to the purchase of items which occurred due to this inconvenience.”

Then it sent you a check for $733. I contacted ITA again and asked it to cover the rest of your expenses, as agreed. It finally did.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help.

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