I was not born yesterday. Elvira Nurbayeva, the Kazakh carrier’s corporate communications manager, had previously forwarded documents from WorldTracer, an international service that works with airlines to track lost luggage, indicating that your luggage was left in Newark. The reason: that you “DID NOT CLAIM AND REGISTER FOR INTL FLT.” This “obviously means that the passenger should have received baggage upon arrival in Newark,” Ms Nurbayeva wrote. So you blamed United, United blamed Astana and Astana blamed you.
But when I returned to United with the further details things changed. In a statement, the spokeswoman admitted that the bags had in fact been tagged to Atyrau but had not been transferred correctly. So what:
“When this happens, we work hard with our interline partners to connect customers with their bags as quickly as possible, including compensation for the delayed bag. We sincerely apologize for the frustration this has caused.
Just a few days ago, you let me know what happened next: United and Astana agreed to compensate you $3,000, or $1,500 for each mishandled bag.
I’m happy for you, and I think your argument about United’s stated policy is reasonable, but I’m unconvinced and uncomfortable with this decision, as I fear it does not herald the dawn from an era in which airlines pay generous payments to everyone suffering from lost baggage.
George Hobica, founder of budget travel site Airfarewatchdog, agreed. He was shocked to learn United had agreed to pay the full amount. He suspects that the scrutiny of a certain major newspaper may have played a role. Airlines are required to reimburse you a reasonable amount for items you purchased, he noted, but you told me the item amount was less than $75.
“She is entitled to be compensated for her $75, but not for the pain and suffering,” he said. “We’re all going through pain and suffering these days.” Legally, Mr. Hobica appears to be on solid ground. The 1999 Montreal Convention, covering international travel and signed by all three countries on your itinerary, states that restitution is due “if the carrier acknowledges the loss of checked baggage, or if the checked baggage has not arrived at the expiration of 21 days.” (For domestic flights, the Department of Transportation has similar rules, giving airlines leeway in deciding when to report baggage as “lost”.)