Home Tips and Tricks What To Do When An Airline Breaks Something In Your Luggage

What To Do When An Airline Breaks Something In Your Luggage

by SharonKurheg

I went to New York with a friend a few years ago, just for a couple of days, to see a bunch of Broadway shows. We were only going to be out of town from Tuesday to Friday morning, for about 70 hours total, so we were able to get away with just using carry-on luggage. That saved us the time of having to pick up our luggage from baggage claim, as well as the worry of them losing our bags or breaking something in them.

Since I grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, whenever I’m in Manhattan, the times when we’re not in shows are generally dedicated to food – either the yummy things, like pizza and bagels, that aren’t quite the same down here in Central Florida, or restaurants that were simply an important part of my life before I relocated from the Big Apple. Anyway, while we were at one of these restaurants (Serendipity 3, on E. 60th, between 2nd & 3rd), I bought a glass Christmas ornament, just because. It wasn’t very expensive, only $12.50, and I suspected it would give me warm fuzzies every year when I put it on the tree, so I got it.

This was before Delta’s most recent update to the order in which, and how they called people to board the plane. But on that Delta flight home, thanks to (A) the Delta gate people saying the flight was 100% full, (B) being in Zone 3 (of 3) and (C) 95% of the other Zone 3 people already standing on line while the pre-Zone 1 “people who need extra time” folks were being loaded, by the time my friend and I got up to the gate before loading onto the plane, anyone who had a carry on bag that, like mine, was around the size and shape of a regulation 22x14x9 was told they needed to gate check because there was no more room on the overhead. I told them I would prefer not to, but of course, that got me nowhere. The Delta employee said the bag would be brought up with strollers at the gate, so no worries. Not wanting to rock the boat and risk not being allowed to go on the plane at all, I agreed and gate checked it.

As it turned out, there was indeed space for my carry-on suitcase above our seats, and I suspect even more space for it above the 2 empty seats directly in front of us AND above the 2 empty “exit row” seats that I saw several rows behind us when I went to use the lavatory. Cue the feeling of minor annoyance. Increase the annoyance to mid-range when I was told, upon landing, that my luggage would not be brought up to me at the gate after all, but would go to regular baggage claim, thereby adding a good 20-30 minutes before I could get to my house. And then I got home, unpacked and discovered that my Christmas ornament, which was packed to be safe with me handling it as carry-on, but not when it was undoubtedly thrown from place to place by Delta employees, was broken into a bajillion little glass crumbs. ARGH!!!

Photo Mar 24, 3 19 54 PM

Part of my broken ornament. The rest was glass dust all over the bottom of my suitcase

Joe tweeted Delta, saying, “Wife having to gate check bag on flight home = broken Xmas ornament. Vacuuming out luggage not how we wanted to spend today.” To their credit, they wrote back quickly and said we should call their customer service number. I had a couple of false starts because I didn’t realize I would need my SkyMiles and flight confirmation numbers in front of me (so I had to find those), plus I wasn’t sure if the contents of my baggage counted as “baggage” or not (NOTE TO NEWBIES: It does) but I finally spoke to a sweet lady named Shay, who said I needed to fill out their online form. She did give me some helpful suggestions (ignore the “reference number” request, the photo must be small or just say that you have a photo available upon request, etc.) and off I went to Delta.com to fill out my “Comment/Complaint” form. I got an auto-reply the next day that said:

Dear Mrs. XXX,
Thank you for contacting Delta.
We look forward to working with you to resolve this matter. You will receive a response regarding the status of your claim within 2-4 weeks.

We appreciate your selection of Delta and will work to resolve this in a timely manner.
Thank you very much.

Customer Care – Baggage

That was on March 25th.

On April 10th (16 days after I contacted them – on the lower end of 2-4 weeks), I got a phone call from a Delta representative but let it go to voice mail because I didn’t recognize the 800 number they used and nowadays if I don’t recognize the number, I just don’t pick up the phone – sorry, I just don’t feel like listening to another robocall about adjusting a headset. They also sent me an email:

Dear Mrs. XXX:
Thank you for the additional information (NOTE: I didn’t send them any other additional information but OK), and we’re sorry to learn that you encountered a problem with your baggage while traveling with us recently.
Please be assured that every precaution is made to have a passenger’s luggage arrive in the same condition as when it was checked into our care (NOTE: yeah right). We succeed with few exceptions and regret the mishandling on your trip (NOTE: if you had let me keep my luggage with me as intended, and especially since there was indeed room in the overhead, this wouldn’t have happened).
Our check for $13.61 (NOTE: $12.50 + 8.87% NYC tax) to reimburse you for the damaged property will be mailed under separate cover. You should receive it within the next ten business days.
We appreciate, and thank you for, your choice of Delta to provide your air transportation and look forward to being able to welcome and serve you, once again, on board one of our flights.

Claims Manager
Customer Care-Baggage

And on April 22nd, which was indeed within (albeit JUST within) 10 business days, I received my check.

So there you go – I’m reimbursed. Am I happy? Well, not being out the $13.61 is nice, especially since they were the ones who broke the thing in the first place. But honestly, I’d rather still have an intact ornament as a memory of my trip and would have been a whole lot happier if I had been allowed to keep my carry-on in the first place, and then none of this would have happened.

With airline travel so uncomfortable and not-user-friendly nowadays, you would think the airlines could at least make “keeping the items they say customers can have with them, with them” would be more of a priority in terms of customer service. Oh, and speaking of customer service, I got a “Give Us Feedback of How We Handled This Situation?” email from Delta on April 11th, the day after they said they were going to send me the check. The only problem was that several of the survey questions had to do with whether or not I was happy with the situation once it was completed…which it wasn’t because I hadn’t received the check yet. There was still a possibility something could have happened and the check wouldn’t be received, which would have affected my answers. So I held onto the email and waited. But when I tried to fill it out a few days after I finally did receive the check, the survey had expired. So yeah…customer service.

Afternote – The friend I was with wound up going back to NYC – and Serendipity III – a few months later and got me a replacement. Because he totally rocks <3. I proudly display the ornament and think of our trip – and the debacle – and then of how sweet he is.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


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derek February 23, 2020 - 2:07 pm

It’s war out there. When travel and must gate check a bag, I think whether I will make a huge stink and get arrested or whether I start thinking what items I will take out. Often there will be a plastic bag of those items already for removal if the demand is made.

Christian February 23, 2020 - 4:14 pm

Cathay Pacific once caused a crack in my wife’s hard shell luggage. They repaired it in a few days, so props to them.

Phil0 Sophic February 23, 2020 - 4:53 pm

Aren’t you the lucky one! Attempting to bring home 2 bottles of expensive gift burbon in a checked suitcase well packed/padded for travel, at my destination I was paged to the baggage office. There was my case crushed wet and reeking of booze with the Delta person and two Homeland security “officers” very unhappy with my choice of packing a potential explosive, masked with burbon. They went thru the bag to see if there were any possible triggering devices etc. Those two idiots thought they prevented another 911 and solved who killed JFK. After some time I was allowed to leave and was told by Delta they wouldn’t cover the cost of the loss, happy to get out of there I left.

SharonKurheg February 23, 2020 - 5:22 pm

Holy crap, how awful!

derek October 2, 2021 - 3:12 pm

My thinking is the same as when I commented in 2020.

I keep important things in a plastic (or rarely canvas shopping bag) bag within the carryon. If they demand to check it, I unzip the bag, take out the plastic bag, then zip up the carryon and give it to them. Important things are not necessary costly but could be that ornament d escribed in the article.


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