Air France Busted My Wife’s Suitcase, Then Delta Tried To Screw Us Over

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Air France damaged baggage

Air France Damaged Baggage & Delta’s Shady Response To My Claim

My wife’s recent incident with an Air France damaged baggage claim got a really weird response from Delta. My wife and I visited several cities around Europe in December. Even though I’m on team carry on whenever possible, we had to check a bag because of liquids in presents we’d bought. This story only confirms my bad luck with luggage and desire to not check bags when it can be avoided. Here’s what happened and why I want everyone to take the approach I did.

Air France Damaged Baggage

On a flight from Paris CDG to Ljubljana, Slovenia, Air France broke 2 wheels off my wife’s suitcase. These things happen, so we weren’t overly upset or stressed about it. We filed the claim at the airport, got paperwork from them, and were on our way. A week or 2 later, I filed a claim on Air France’s website, and that was that. Or so I thought. I’d submitted a ton of pictures of the suitcase, claim forms, receipts, detailed notes. How this wasn’t simple is beyond me.

Air France damaged baggage

Delta Manages The Case

Delta was assigned to manage our case, since we live in the Americas and they’re the local SkyTeam member in this region. I had provided a link to where to buy the original suitcase, plus description and photos of the damaged one. I’d also provided the required claim forms from the airport. There were also receipts, credit card statements, and tags from purchasing the replacement suitcase.

I’ll note that this was December 26, so there weren’t many stores open. The only store open selling suitcases on December 26 in Ljubljana was the Samsonite store. Was it more expensive than our original suitcase and a better model? Yes. Was it also more expensive buying in euros, where we’d paid dollars for the original? Yep. Who’s fault is that? Not mine.

Delta’s Email Closing The Case

Delta’s first email read like it was written by a jerk. Just being honest.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the mishandling of your luggage. We are sorry to learn about the inconvenience you experienced.

In order to continue the handling of your case, we kindly request that you submit all the information and supporting documents as listed below:

  • Baggage claim check
  • Color
  • Size
  • Brand
  • Purchase date
  • Purchase value
  • Full copy of the original purchase receipt for damaged bag

Our liability is limited to the original value and we require proof of amounts claimed. Consequently, we are temporarily closing your case and will reopen as soon as we receive the requested information.

I’d provided an estimate of when we bought the suitcase (3 years prior) during the claim. I’d also provided an estimate of how much we’d paid. Let me know if you think ANYONE still has the original purchase receipt for an item purchased 3 years ago.

Here’s why I think this email is a jerk move. Delta asked us for something 99% of people can’t provide and said the case was closed until we provide it. If they ask for things we can’t provide, they get to pat themselves on the back for reaching out to us. It wasn’t their fault we didn’t provide documents, right?

Travel Hacking Overseas

My Response

I’m not one to take it lightly when a multi-bilion-dollar company tries to pull a fast one to screw over the customer during the company’s mistake. I wrote back.

I find your whole email quite strange, as if no one read the claim or looked at the documents submitted.

You and I both know that no one has the “Full copy of the original purchase receipt for damaged bag” from multiple years ago.
 
I have submitted the documentation proving that my suitcase was destroyed during the flight. I have submitted proof that I had to buy a new suitcase.
 
Here is everything again, attached. This includes pictures of the damaged suitcase showing it’s completely unusable and had to be replaced.
 
Yes, we had to pay more to replace it than when we originally purchased it, but that’s not our fault. If you’re on a holiday and the airline destroys your suitcase, rendering it unusable, and it’s Christmas time and shops are closed, you take what you can get.
 

Your responsibility to the customer is to not damage the bag and then to replace it if it’s damaged. We expect to be reimbursed. The airline is at fault, and your email comes off like you fully intend to screw us over. I don’t like your email at all.

Do the right thing here.

The “I’m not taking a BS email” approach is something I get from my mom. I’ve shown Delta’s email to a few people, and everyone read it like they had no intention of reimbursing us for the Air France damaged baggage claim. It felt like they wanted to ask for something impossible so we couldn’t meet their requirements. I thought the “you’re not pushing me around” response was my best play, and I accompanied it with a tweet to Delta, Air France & SkyTeam all together. Airlines hate bad publicity for trying to screw over customers. Turns out I was right.

Delta Sings a New Tune

Maybe it’s just because a different employee responded. Possibly, my “don’t take BS” approach and overwhelming them with tons of documentation email did something. Who knows. However, Delta wrote back the next day saying the check was in the mail for full reimbursement. It arrived 3 days later.

If they were going to be so nice and reimburse us without that original receipt from 3 years ago, why did they need it in the first place? Why did Delta say our case was closed until we provided that receipt, since that clearly wasn’t the case? Their whole approach comes off like they intended to make us go away / give up. “I don’t have that receipt, so the claim is closed. That sucks.”

Start by asking us for something they think we can’t provide, and then we lose. If that’s how the first approach comes off, why was the 2nd email apologetic and straight to “check’s in the mail”? Your guess is as good as mine, but the first email came off like a power play, not customer service. Their first email read like they were hoping 99% of people will assume this can’t be done and drop their claim. That would save Delta incredible amounts of money.

Final Thoughts

I encourage you to not take BS emails from billion-dollar companies lying down. I didn’t, and it was the difference between getting and not getting $141 for a suitcase Air France broke. When a company asks you to produce something absurd in a claim where they owe you money, tell them it’s absurd and point out why. If we, the consumers, let them push us around, they will. If we tell them we won’t be pushed around (your approach to “I won’t be pushed around” might be different than mine), the check is suddenly in the mail.

When an airline damages your property or other times they ought to reimburse you, remind them of that obligation. I’m not one to complain about every little thing or ask for compensation just because the plane boarded 5 minutes late. However, you should definitely remind companies of their responsibilities when they try to dodge by starting with a ridiculous email. I imagine that a lot of people would see the request for impossible documents and assume the claim will never be settled. They’d give up. That’s probably why Delta starts with this approach. I hope you won’t fall for it.

19 COMMENTS

  1. I just don’t understand why Delta was being so stingy here when all they did was liase between the passenger who resides in the USA and the operating airline which is based in Europe. The way I understand it is that AF is the party ultimately responsible for the cost of reimbursing you because the damage was incurred on one of their flight and has nothing to do with Delta. It is totally unreasonable to expect Delta to bear this reimbursement cost when they didn’t commit the mistake in the first place, right? Am I missing something?

    • I don’t know the full details, but something in the Sky Team agreements means they (Delta) handle the customer who is closest to them. So while it was AF who broke the wheels, Delta handled the claim. Delta’s name was on the check when it came in the mail. Maybe AF repays them later, I’m not sure.

      • It makes very much sense for SkyTeam to require member airlines closest to the passenger’s home address to handle the claim. For one, it makes sure nothing is lost in translation and this is generally a good customer service initiative. However, I do think Delta would seek reimbursement from AF one way or another for the cost of replacing your damaged suitcase. Maybe SkyTeam runs a clearinghouse where member airlines can settle non-airfare claims?

  2. When we have had damage done to our suitcases (which happens with all airlines now and then), we have been given immediate replacement bags on site at the airport when we line up and show them the damage. I can’t say this has happened on Dec 25/26th however, but it is nice to get an immediate replacement bag to use (usually mediocre quality but they work for the remainder of the trip).

  3. So you’re a pro blogger and shocked to find out a carrier wants an original purchase receipt for a broken luggage claim? This is a standard practice across all carriers. You among all people should know that you should keep your luggage receipts.

    • Even if that’s true, and I’d need more than your word for it, a ridiculous expectation is a ridiculous expectation.

      I don’t complain about everything, either. So when I do, I consistently get what’s due, and sometimes even better.

    • Having had several bags damaged and lost by our US major airlines, I can confidently say that I have never had to produce a receipt to prove what I purchased a bag for. Realistically, I could see them denying a claim if I broke a random/generic suitcase, bought a Rimowa, and then told them to reimburse for it, but I think anything in the $50-$150 range should have just been deemed reasonable for that size of luggage.

      What surprises me more is that the ground handler in LJU didn’t just replace the bag on the spot. My small regional airport offered me an immediate replacement or the ability to send it to a bag repair facility, so I’m surprised that a larger airport in Slovenia wouldn’t have been able to offer that option. But then again – that would require dirt-cheap Air France to pay for stock luggage to be sent to and stored by the ground handler – so I’m not too surprised they may not have had any to replace with.

      • You’re the 2nd person mentioning this “just give you another suitcase on the spot”. I’ve never heard of this! Admittedly, it’s also my first time filing for damaged luggage.

  4. Devil’s advocate, but I bet it wouldn’t matter if you submitted everything or barely anything in the AF case submission due to somewhere in T&Cs saying Delta handles. Once it’s reassigned to Delta handling it created to boilerplate legalese response and auto-closes the generated case for management & liability reasons. Only once you submitted back to Delta did any details beyond basic passenger, flight, case details matter.

    • Surprisingly, when the first email from Delta came, there were 5 emails in a chain below it showing that someone from AF saw it, sent it to someone, to someone, etc. until it got to Delta who sent it to me. It wasn’t just automatic, so there was actual human effort put into this. That’s why I found it so surprisingly stupid.

  5. I avoid AF like the plague. On the few times I’ve flown them in the past (Delta code share), damaging baggage was SOP for them (at least in my case). In one case (pun intended), I checked a band new 25” Samsonite bag and got it back with three out of four exterior zippers broken (looked like they were twisted off with a pliers). We won’t talk about their agents (not crew) general overall poor attitude. Essentially they’re not responsible for broken, including missing, zippers. And forget about gouges and gashes. If I can’t fly Delta to my European destination, my fall back is aDelta code share on KLM, or on a rare occasion, Air Italia.

  6. Good on you! A lot of companies will send a boiler plate email with things that are ridiculous. I had a similar issue once, wasn’t completely damaged but there was a big gash in the side of the suitcase. In my case I provided everything they asked, because I bought it on amazon and could pull up the receipt from 2016. But I can see that a lot of people will say forget it if they bought it from a B&M store with a paper receipt.

    • which is exactly why I think they start this way: so that a lot of people give up on the claim, and then the company doesn’t have to pay out–despite that being their real obligation. “If we get a bunch of people to give up, we save money!”

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