Woman Battles Airline After Luggage Is Lost and Looted

PHOTO:American Airlines airplanes are at parked at the gate at JFK International airport in this file photo, Aug.1, 2012, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP Photo
American Airlines airplanes are at parked at the gate at JFK International airport in this file photo, Aug.1, 2012, in New York.

Dear ABC News Fixer: I flew American Airlines direct from Raleigh-Durham to Dallas-Fort Worth. Somehow, my luggage ended up in the Dominican Republic.

I spoke with the baggage claim agent who assured me this would be remedied. It was not. Over the course of four days, I spoke with several AA call center representatives. I explained that there were gift items inside for my mom, who was very ill, and I was in town to visit her.

The luggage finally arrived, but I found that 75 percent of my clothing had been stolen (casual, business -- you name it, it was gone!) and some of my mom’s gifts were missing, too.

American used to be my favorite airline but this experience is unbelievable. How do I begin to be compensated for my items, the gifts and the inconvenience?

- Gloria Mitchell, Menlo Park, Calif.

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Dear Gloria: You told us you realized something was seriously wrong when you landed at Dallas-Fort Worth and saw that your baggage receipt had the name and destination of a different person.

Lord knows what happened to that guy’s luggage.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of this saga is that you tried to correct it right away but said you still couldn’t get help. You described receiving incomplete and contradictory information about what to do about the missing items. One rep told you to call a different number the following Monday – but later, another person said that because you didn’t file a report within 24 hours at the airport, you might not be fully compensated for your losses, which totaled $1,021.

Luckily for the ABC News Fixer, you were very organized and were able to give us a detailed timeline of the events, your boarding pass, the baggage receipt with the other traveler’s name, an inventory of the missing items and receipts for the few pieces of emergency clothing you had to buy.

We took all of that to American Airlines’ corporate offices and asked them to look into what happened.

We soon got good news. You said American contacted you right away and reimbursed you for the items – plus gave you a $100 voucher to make up for the hassle. An American spokeswoman confirmed that it was resolved and told us they apologize for the inconvenience.

Most luggage gets where it’s supposed to go, but what if yours doesn’t? Or it does, but is arrives damaged or has missing items? Here are some tips:

- Check out the airline’s claim procedures immediately and follow the rules to a “t”. You can find details under the airline’s official “conditions of carriage.”

- If you notice damage to your baggage or there are items missing, file a claim at the airport. If you notice the issue after you get home, call the airline within 24 hours.

- If the entire bag is missing, file your claim immediately after the plane lands. American, for example, requires initial notice to be filed within four hours of the plane landing.

- Ask the airline whether they will reimburse you for items you need immediately, such as emergency clothing. Save your receipts!

- If your checked bag was inspected by the Transportation Security Administration, there will be a note inside or a seal on the outside. If you think the TSA caused damage, CLICK HERE or call them at (866) 289-9673.

- Find out how much liability the airline assumes for luggage. For example, American has a maximum reimbursement of $3,500 unless the passenger bought extra coverage. But they won’t assume any liability at all for things like antiques, artwork, books, documents, china, computers and electronics, eyeglasses, jewelry and other fragile or valuable items.

-The ABC News Fixer

CLICK HERE to go to The ABC News Fixer homepage

Follow The ABC News Fixer on Twitter