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Entries during 2012-10

Lost Bag: Reimbursed for Expenses?

Q. I paid a baggage fee on United. The bag did not make it to my destination in time for an important job interview. The airline said they would deliver the bag the next day. I had to buy a replacement suit plus a shirt and tie for the interview for $400. I tried to contact them to find out when I could expect my bag and could not find a way to talk to a human being. I kept getting a recording that said they were still working to locate my bag, which finally arrived around 10 p.m. the next day. I have since tried to contact the airline to inquire about at least being reimbursed for the bag fee and cost of the interview suit, but still have not been able to speak to a real person. Should the airline reimburse this fee and my expenses, and shouldn't there be a way to contact them?

A. First of all, honestly, I’m not giving United a free pass here, but assuming it was an important interview, and the interview was to be held the day you arrived, why on Earth didn’t you wear the suit on the plane? Why take a chance like that? Second, there’s no government regulation requiring airlines to refund bag fees if a bag is delayed (there should be one, but so far they’re only required by the D.O.T. to refund if the bag is lost). However, the D.O.T. does require airlines to reimburse passengers for reasonable expenses to replace essential items even when a bag is merely delayed. You will have to pursue United through their customer service, providing a receipt for your suit, shirt and tie, and may even have to take them to small claims court if they do not respond. As for your bag fee, if you paid by credit card (and I’m guessing you did), you should try challenging the charge, in writing, with your issuing bank, under the Federal Fair Billing Credit Act, since you paid for but did not receive the product you paid for (i.e., timely delivery of your bag). At the very least, that will send United a message. You can contact United using this online form or write P.O. Box 66140, Chicago, IL 60666-0140; or telephone: (800) 221-6903. Be concise, polite, put everything in writing, and insist that all responses to your communications are also in writing, not verbal.

Things to do in Boston

Q: I am flying to Dublin soon. I discovered that I could save a lot of money on airfare by buying a separate fare on Southwest to Boston and then a second, onward fare to Dublin instead of a single fare from my home airport to Ireland. In order not to miss my flight, I’m taking the $400 I saved and spending a day and night in Boston, which I’ve never visited. How should I spend my 24-hour layover? What’s the “killer” restaurant of the moment? What sites should I see near my hotel (the Kimpton Onyx Hotel)?

A: You’re right that you can often save money by buying “split” fares, and you’re very wise not to try to make a connection on the same day of travel, in case your first leg is delayed or canceled. The Onyx is near North Station and the North End neighborhood, so you might just want to explore that area, stopping in at Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Old Ironsides, and other historic sites, or perhaps catch a Celtics or Bruins game at the nearby Boston Garden if you’re a sports fan. You’re also close to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. Farther afield, if you’re an art lover, make the short trip to the Fenway and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s easy to get around by public transit (the “T”) or by foot.  The restaurant of the moment in Boston is Menton (mentonboston.com), the latest effort by local chef made good Barbara Lynch, who has whipped up two set menus, a four-course prix fixe and a seven-course chef’s tasting menu. It’s pricey, but it looks like you’ll be saving enough on airfare to more than cover the tab.

Compensated for Rental to Make Connection

Q. Our group was flying from Akron to Los Angeles, with a connection in Detroit on Delta. We received a call that the Akron flight was delayed over an hour and 45 minutes, which would cause us to miss the connecting flight to L.A. Our group decided to rent a van and rapidly drive to Detroit to make the connection. (Yes, we had approval to get on the second leg without flying the first leg). Needless to say, this was an inconvenience, but how do we get compensated for our van rental and the financial loss of the first leg of the trip? What can we expect from Delta?

A. If the airfare from Akron to L.A. was more expensive than Detroit to L.A., then Delta should reimburse you for the fare difference, at the very least, since you didn’t fly Akron to Detroit. I doubt that Delta will reimburse you, however, for your van rental. They might give you a voucher good for future travel (say, $100 or $200), but that’s all I would expect from them. Write to customer service, tell them how much you love their airline and how much you look forward to your next trip, and see what happens.

Compensation for Delays Beyond Meal + Hotel

Q. Our fight several days ago from Frankfurt to Philadelphia, PA was cancelled (mechanical problems they said) and we had to spend the night and couldn't leave until the next day. The airline did provide meals and hotel accommodations at no cost to us. Someone, however, told us we are also due an inconvenience fee that is little known when traveling on US Airways within the European Union. Is this the case? This person said she has received as much as 600 euros for a similar situation from the airline. Before I go ahead and look into the compensation I wanted to see if the information we were given is correct. If we accepted vouchers for meals and an overnight stay, are we still owed additional compensation if so, is this per person?  

A. Yes, you are entitled to compensation when a flight leaving from a European airport is delayed due to circumstances reasonably within the airline’s control, and this includes mechanical problems. This is over and above hotel and meal reimbursement. The amount owed varies depending on the length of the flight and the delay, and the maximum is indeed 600 euros, which applies to long haul flights such as yours, when the delay is over four hours. These rules apply to all airlines, not just US Airways, and you don’t have to be an E.U. citizen to qualify. Several companies based in Europe will fill out the paperwork for you (one can be found at www.euclaim.co.uk), for a fee, but you can also do the work yourself.

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