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A Suitcase Full of Glass Shards: The Airline Lost My Luggage

a cat in a red suitcase

Speaking of luggage today, for the first time in years the airline lost my bag on a recent mileage run. Not only lost it, but somehow American Airlines baggage handlers pulverized one of the bottles of wine I was bringing home.

I check my bag maybe 4-5 times a year, and almost never on a mileage run. But I made a last minute decision to pick up a few bottles of wine I really liked at a my Northwest Wine Academy tasting. Because it was last minute, I didn’t have my usual “wine diaper” carrying cases, but over the years I’ve gotten quite skillful at backing bottles in with clothes and never had one break.

In this case I even added a cardboard box into the mix to make sure that my suitcase wasn’t underfilled. I wound up at the airport 4 hours early. Not so early that my bag would get lost sitting off to the side somewhere, but definitely before the cutoff for checked luggage!

I had a 30 minute layover in Phoenix, so when I waited over a half hour at the baggage claim for a bag that didn’t come, I wasn’t completely surprised. I was surprised though when baggage services informed me my bag wasn’t in Phoenix. It was still in Seattle. It had never left.

Now I’m usually really disciplined at being patient and pleasant in all travel situations because getting frustrated at the person helping you isn’t going to help anything. But I’ll admit, I was struggling that night. If being a top elite on American Airlines and checking your bag well before the cut off couldn’t get it on the first flight, what did I need to do differently!?

The agent immediately endeared herself to me though — staring at the screen with a look of disbelief, she said “I don’t understand. Your bag is still in Seattle. How have they not flown it out yet!? I really wish they would include explanations for why. At least then it would be easier to understand.”

She gave me my claim number, told me it was scheduled to be on a flight out that night and I would probably get a call from baggage services the next morning. I thanked her and headed home. But I couldn’t resist tweeting my frustration to American on Twitter, who accidentally made it worse. They sent a link to bagagge tracking which said my bag had yet to be located. Next morning, same thing. I figured it was just website problems but it certainly did nothing to engender confidence.

Bag eventually arrives in the afternoon. I’d been a little worried about the wine, but the exterior was dry. I cheerfully opened it up and discovered shards of glass and a strong smell of alcohol. Somehow they had managed to smash one of the bottles, though the other two were completely unscathed. I wondered if the bag had been searched by TSA which could have undone all my careful packing, but I couldn’t find a search slip.

And since all the contents were only slightly damp, I’m guessing the damage happened shortly off I dropped it off. Which makes me wonder if someone panicked and that’s why the bag was delayed…

But it was what it was. I did look a little bit into what my options were for compensation.

Understandably American Airlines won’t cover damage for “items not packed properly” or “loss, damage or delay due to a security search led by local, state or federal agencies” I know I packed my bottles carefully enough, but since I didn’t have them in bubble wrap or other official packaging, I can see them claiming it was my fault (though 2 of the 3 bottles were fine.).

I’d used my Chase Sapphire to pay for the plane ticket which comes with travel insurance. If your bag is delayed for more than 6 hours they’ll reimburse you up to $100 a day for 5 days to cover the cost of clothing, toiletries, etc that you might need to replace. If it’s lost entirely, they’ll pay up to $3,000.

I was guessing damaged items might also fall under this, but wasn’t a good option for me. Based on everyone’s reports, you need to have receipts for almost everything. I had declined my receipt for the wine and everything else was a year old at least!

So looks like this time I’m out of luck.

I’m not complaining, it could have been much worse! I was lucky it was only a $20 bottle of wine and they lost it on my way home, not at the start of the trip. And while a carry-on full of glass splinters and red-wine stained clothes wasn’t what I wanted to deal with, I’m trying to focus on what I learned and can share with others:

  1. Make sure I keep essential/beloved items in my carry-on (My favorite scarf now has a burgandy background :/).
  2. I should consider keeping a wine bag in my suitcase at all times since I know I buy wine when traveling.
  3. If I want to avail myself of my credit cards’ travel insurance, I need to be disciplined about keeping receipts for all major luggage and clothing purchases in the future.

May your holiday travels have better luck!

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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  1. TSA has undone my careful packaging jobs more than once. They once broke the seal on a new box of chocolates and opened that. When the luggage arrived, the chocolates were mixed in with all the other luggage contents. They did put in one of their “privacy invaded by TSA” slips, but I wouldn’t trust them to do that if they broke something.

  2. Sorry to hear about your luggage. I too have suffered with American and United. So much with United that I avoid checking anything in if it can be avoided and shipping stuff back home. One time my luggage was so messed up I literally didn’t recognize it on the belt because it had giant tiremarks.

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