Monday, January 12, 2009
Help Me Howard: Lost Luggage
If you fly, you know how frustrating it can be to land and find your luggage has taken a different plane to a different city. Even worse, it is never found. That's what happened to one South Florida woman who could not believe it when the airline then refused to pay for her lost belongings. Can an airline get away with it? Time for Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- In most offices, clowning around could get you fired. Here, it could get you hired.
Marcela Murad: "We just have fun, and we get paid for it. Isn't that wonderful?"
Marcela's the founder of Silly Farm Supplies, which sells makeup for clowns and body painters.
Marcela Murad: "Oh, God! We love it."
She loves her work, but a trip back from a job in Atlanta wiped the smile off her face.
In Atlanta, Marcela was checking in for her flight to Fort Lauderdale when she noticed the ticket agent putting the wrong tag on her bag.
Marcela Murad: "She goes, 'Oh, my God, I put it on the other person's tag that was going to Nicaragua.' She said, 'Don't worry. I'll get it and fix it.'"
When Marcela landed, you can guess what happened.
Marcela Murad: "Sure enough, I got to Fort Lauderdale, there was no tag and no bag."
Her bag had her makeup and brushes and some items that she could never put a price tag on.
Marcela Murad: "My diaries that I have, two of them, took me two years to write."
Spirit searched for the bag and couldn't find it, so Marcela filed a claim.
Marcela Murad: "It was $665. I figured it out."
Spirit Airlines denied her claim, saying she left out some information, so she filed again.
Marcela Murad: "I resent everything, the complete form, driver's license, second explanation of what happened, a copy of tag. I've never heard from them."
She could give up. She won't.
Marcela Murad: "Now it is just a matter of principle because I've called them, I've emailed them. I've begged them to let me come, they just don't respond."
But, if an airline looses your luggage, do they have to reimburse you, and if they do, how much?
Howard Finkelstein: "Once you give them your bag, if they lose it, they have to compensate you for the contents, up to $3300, except for items not covered by the airlines, such as jewelry, cash and electronic equipment."
When we contacted Spirit Airlines, a spokesperson told us the claim was originally denied because Marcela didn't include her bag claim check and a copy of her ID. Marcella told us she did that twice. Spirit then told us that they had already decided to pay Marcela, not the $665 she estimated the contents at, but a check for $387, concluding her belongings had depreciated. Legally, Howard says an airline can do that.
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, you don't get what you paid for the lost items or their replacement value. You just get the fair market value. In other words, what it's worth in its used condition."
Marcela's glad she'll finally be paid for the contents of her long lost luggage, but as for where the bag is, it's a mystery that may never be solved.
Marcela Murad: "Maybe the poor guy is in Nicaragua with my suitcase."
Now we do get some complaints about Spirit in part because they are a South Florida-based airline. A spokesman said some mistakes are their fault, like in Marcela's case, but others are what they call managing expectations. They say, Spirit is a low-cost carrier, that they get you from point A to B safely but with no frills, no hot towels, no VIP treatment.
Carrying baggage you want to lose? Check in with us. We aren't a low cost carrier, we are a no-cost solver.
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