DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: Last fall, my wife and I traveled to eastern Europe for a river cruise. We missed our connection in London because of a flight delay. Our airline rerouted us to Paris and Prague, with the last leg on CSA Czech Airlines.
Our luggage did not arrive with us. We immediately filed a lost luggage claim at the Prague airport. When the luggage still did not come the next day, and there was no word on when or if it would, we went shopping for clothes and toiletries. The luggage finally arrived late that same night.
After the trip, we filed for reimbursement with Czech Airlines, since they were the ones that delayed our luggage. I filed by using their online form. I received an immediate canned response that they would process our claim as soon as possible.
When I heard nothing further for three weeks, I followed up, again using their online form. I received the same canned response. After waiting almost three more weeks with no answer, I sent an email to their call center explaining the situation and asking about the status of my claim. (I got the email address from your website.)
An airline representative said wait times were longer than normal but promised to get back to me as soon as possible. That was four months ago. I would simply like Czech Airlines to adjudicate the claim and decide what, if anything, they are going to reimburse.
—Dick Helms, Tucson, Arizona
ANSWER: CSA Czech Airlines should have promptly processed your claim, as promised. High traffic and call volume is one thing, but the airlines can’t use that excuse for months. Your claim just fell between the cracks, and the airline covered its incompetence with form letters.
There was nothing unusual about your claim. You filed it on time, the items you purchased were reasonable, and you gave the airline all the documentation needed to process the claim.
Usually, when a reimbursement claim goes sideways, it’s because someone bought something the airline wouldn’t cover or filed the claim too late. I could see no evidence of any of that. The only place where I can find fault is where you allowed the drugstore to convert your dollars to korunas. Always let your bank from the conversion; otherwise, you’ll get hit with fees and an unfavorable exchange rate.
You did the right thing by appealing to a manager, and I’m happy that you found the executive contacts for CSA Czech Airlines that I list on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/csa-czech-airlines /. You used those contacts at the right moment, when it became clear that they would not process your claim quickly.
I contacted the airline on your behalf. It “found” your claim and processed a refund of $414 for the clothing and toiletries.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.