Travel Troubleshooter

Alitalia took 7 weeks to find my luggage

Q: I have been attempting to get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses from Alitalia, and I’m hoping you can help.

The problem started when Alitalia checked me in as the wrong passenger on a flight from Miami to Rome to Tel Aviv. There was another E. Weiner on the flight. The problem was discovered by me while waiting to board the flight in Miami. My ticket was supposed to be from Miami to Tel Aviv via Rome. My boarding pass was only to Rome.

While the staff scrambled to correct the problem ticket and boarding pass, they said they would board the plane and find my bags. They gave me new boarding passes with my new baggage-claim tickets attached.

Unfortunately, when I got to Tel Aviv, only one of my two checked bags arrived. I was told that the other one would be delivered to me in Israel. The bag arrived while I was out touring, but my friends sent me a picture of the suitcase. I thought they were playing around with me, because the bag was not mine.

The problem started when Alitalia checked me in as the wrong passenger on a flight from Miami to Rome to Tel Aviv.

Ellen Weiner, Alitalia passenger

During this time period, the mother of the teenage girl whose bag it was had contacted my friends and requested that we not release the bag back to the airlines. One of my friends was not traveling with any luggage and offered to bring the bag back with him on his flight home to the Miami International Airport and return it to the girl’s parents. Her daughter had received my bag but refused it.

My missing bag contained most of the possessions that I had brought for my trip. I had only the shoes I was wearing on the flight and a few outfits — certainly not enough for 10 days in Israel.

Seven weeks after my return to South Florida, the girl’s mother called to tell me that the airline had contacted her to return my suitcase. She provided my contact information to the delivery person, and I arranged to have the bag delivered to me.

I am requesting that Alitalia reimburse me for all the items I needed to purchase while in Israel without my bag.

Ellen Weiner, Coconut Creek, Florida

A: This is an exceptionally frustrating case. Alitalia shouldn’t have confused you with another passenger; it should have ticketed you correctly, should have delivered your luggage to the right place, should have quickly reunited you with your lost belongings and — deep breath! — should have compensated you for your loss.

This is one of the strangest cases I’ve seen in years.

Christopher Elliott

But seven weeks changes your perspective, wears you down. By the time you contacted us, you just wanted a sincere apology and a check for anything. You asked for $799, the approximate value of the clothing and toiletries you had to buy, but under international law, you were entitled to up to $1,400.

Alitalia shouldn’t have taken this long to resolve your issue. Yes, it found your luggage, but way too late. The trick is to ask for compensation as soon as possible. When your luggage goes missing, talk to an airline representative and ask for an allowance to buy clothes and other necessities. Normally, airlines can authorize a few hundred dollars for clothes — I’ve even seen them pay passengers at the ticket counter in cash.

After you returned home, a series of polite but firm emails to one of Alitalia’s customer-service executives might have done the trick. I list their names, numbers and emails on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/alitalia/.

This is one of the strangest cases I’ve seen in years. Alitalia should have systems in place to prevent one passenger from being confused with another.

Alitalia apologized to you for the loss and agreed to refund $600 for your clothes and $100 in baggage fees.

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