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BA lost my luggage, returned it without valuable items – and now won’t pay to replace them

In April, my partner and I took a first class return British Airways flight from Mauritius to London, with a connecting flight in Johannesburg. 

It was the worst travel experience I have had in 40 years of travelling with BA.

My partner, who is from Eastern Europe, was treated badly by staff, including being subject to extensive security checks in Mauritius which seemed targeted and unnecessary. 

On the plane, she was directed to use the economy toilet when she was sitting in first class.

Lost luggage: Reader M.D’s bags were misplaced when he travelled home from holiday – then arrived missing expensive items 

When we finally arrived at Heathrow, our bags were nowhere to be found. We waited at baggage collection for an hour and a half. 

We were given different information by different staff members about where exactly the baggage had been lost, and eventually had to head home and log a missing baggage claim for all four of our suitcases.

The luggage was sent to our home three days later, but the bags were damaged and several items were missing, including a MacBook Pro laptop, various items of jewellery, two pairs of sunglasses and a first aid box containing some medication. These would cost £3,000 to replace.

When I called to report the missing items, I was cut off four times before being told that that the only option was for an investigation to be opened which would take up to six months. 

BA opened an investigation but concluded that it was not liable for the loss, and would only compensate us for the first aid box. 

I have been an extremely loyal BA customer for many years, spending tens of thousands of pounds with the company, and have been a shareholder for 25 years. I won’t use the airline again. Can you help? M.D, London.

Helen Crane replies: To fly, to serve – that’s BA’s motto. But in your case it seems that travelling with Britain’s flagship carrier has only delivered on the first half of that promise. 

Following a recent spate of delays and cancellations due to strikes and understaffing, its Trustpilot rating has plummeted to a paltry 1.4 out of five.

Your trip preceded such issues, but you were still shocked by the shoddy service that you received from this British institution.

You had been to the tropical paradise of Mauritius and were no doubt feeling rested and relaxed, but that came to an abrupt end when you arrived at the airport for your flight home. 

Relaxing: Our reader had visited the tropical island of Mauritius, but his peaceful holiday came to an abrupt end when he lost his luggage during the journey home

Relaxing: Our reader had visited the tropical island of Mauritius, but his peaceful holiday came to an abrupt end when he lost his luggage during the journey home

It seems that BA’s good reputation is as extinct as the island’s native Dodo.

Customers should expect good service no matter the cost of their ticket, but it is especially galling that you did not get the first-class experience you paid for.

You don’t say how much you paid for your flights, but a long-haul trip in first class would have cost several thousands of pounds.

You say that your partner was treated with disrespect by BA staff both on the ground and in the air, which I was sorry to hear about.

CRANE ON THE CASE 

Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

helen.crane@thisismoney.co.uk

And while reaching your destination with all your belongings intact is hardly a luxury, BA fell short on this basic requirement.

You were first told that your luggage was ‘missing’ when you arrived at your stopover in Johannesburg, but were later told that it was safely loaded on to the plane headed to London.

That assurance turned out to be nothing but hot air, as when you finally arrived your four bags were nowhere to be found.

As if that wasn’t annoying enough, when the bags arrived at your home days later those valuable items were missing.

You immediately contacted BA, and after some frustrating back-and-forth were told that it wouldn’t compensate you for your lost belongings.

After months of trying to make it see sense, you got in touch with me to see if I could help.

I contacted BA and asked it why it wouldn’t reimburse you, and whether it would reconsider its decision – both on the grounds that you were an extremely loyal customer, and because getting your belongings home from a holiday in one piece should be a given.

Gone: The items lost in transit included sunglasses and jewellery

Gone: The items lost in transit included sunglasses and jewellery

I’m sorry to say that my request was refused. 

At first the airline tried to blame the loss on Comair, the ‘partner airline’ which operated your initial flight to Johannesburg, which has now entered administration.

It said that Comair was responsible for your bags until they were loaded on to the BA flight.

It statement read: ‘We’re sorry our customer had a bad experience while travelling in South Africa with our franchise partner Comair.

‘We know how upsetting it must have been to realise that some items were missing from their luggage when they received it. 

‘Our customers may be able to claim for any lost items through their travel insurance, and the insurers would then investigate the loss with Comair.’

That is going to be difficult given it is no longer operating. You have already contacted your insurer, who said it would expect BA to cover the loss – but I have suggested you go back again with proof that BA is refusing responsibility.

The response also avoids the fact that you were never told where exactly the bags had gone missing – and say that you managed to track the laptop to Heathrow Terminal 5 when, believing it stolen, you accessed it remotely to try and delete your personal information.

And regardless, you booked your flight with BA, so in my mind it should accept the responsibility.

But BA also mentioned that expensive and fragile items should be kept in hand luggage, not put in the hold.

A bird in the hand (luggage): BA suggested that our reader and his partner should have kept their valuables with them, and would not accept responsibility for losses in hold baggage

A bird in the hand (luggage): BA suggested that our reader and his partner should have kept their valuables with them, and would not accept responsibility for losses in hold baggage

This was getting confusing, so I asked BA straight – why exactly was it turning the request for compensation down?

It referred me to its conditions of carriage, which state that customer should not keep ‘fragile or perishable items or items of special value’ in their hold bags. This, it says, includes money, jewellery and computers.

So future BA travellers, be warned: it won’t be responsible for any valuables packed in the hold as part of its terms and conditions.

I am sorry that my efforts didn’t get BA to see sense. It seems the traditional British values of good service and rewarding loyalty it was founded on no longer hold much weight.

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.

Hit: This week, we reported on Iceland offering a free a £30 voucher to up to 40,000 pensioners who rely solely on state pension and benefits, to spend on food and other essentials.

Launched in partnership with The Rothesay Foundation, it will roll out across 269 Iceland stores in the 17 areas with the highest levels of pensioner deprivation.

This is on top of its existing offer, launched in May, of 10 per cent off for all over-60s every Tuesday.

Nice-land: The grocer is offering a free £30 voucher to those on just the state pension

Nice-land: The grocer is offering a free £30 voucher to those on just the state pension

A great PR move for Iceland, and a small but welcome boost for older people whose pensions aren’t keeping pace with the rising cost of food.

It seems to have gone down well with This is Money readers. ‘Good on Iceland,’ wrote one in the comments. ‘I for one will be shopping more there.’

It’s great to see big firms offering a helping hand to those most in need, and I would urge readers to tell their older friends and family about the scheme – especially if they aren’t online.

The vouchers will be available until mid-September, and it would be nice to see other supermarkets picking up the baton once the Iceland scheme has ended. Over to you. 

Miss: This week, I helped reader K.D sort out an easyJet booking that turned out to be far from easy after she made a mistake with the dates. 

In March, she booked return flights for her and two friends to Menorca departing in July, at a cost of £390.

However, two days before, her friends – a couple – got Covid, meaning they would have to postpone the holiday and wait a little longer for their fix of Spanish sunshine.

She went online to change the flights to a date in September, which she did at a cost of £156.

Tick-box exercise: Our reader forgot to change the month when she adjusted her flights online

Tick-box exercise: Our reader forgot to change the month when she adjusted her flights online

However, on receiving the booking confirmation a few minutes later she noticed that she had forgotten to change the month, meaning that the flights were booked for days later in July, and not for the same date in September as she intended. A silly mistake, but one that is easy to make when filling out online forms.

Companies selling services or products online must offer a 24-hour cooling off period, when customers can cancel without penalty – so K.D was keen to sort out her mistake as soon as possible.

She tried to call easyJet a number of times, but says that after hanging on the line for about 20 mins each time she was cut off.

Panicking because of the time deadline, she changed the flights again online at a cost of £126, and then changed the return flight for £261, hoping to then be able to recoup the money for the first cancellation when she could get through on the phone.

But after phoning several more times and finally getting through, she was told she had to fill a form in online, which she did on the same day.

She got an email reply on a couple of weeks later asking for PCR test results, but she explained that she was looking for a refund on the re-booked flights because of her booking mistake, not on the original flights due to the Covid.

Spanish sunshine: K.D was hoping to head to Menorca with friends but Covid cancelled their plans, and they wanted to reschedule

Spanish sunshine: K.D was hoping to head to Menorca with friends but Covid cancelled their plans, and they wanted to reschedule

When she spoke to easyJet on the phone again, she was told the 24 hour cooling off period policy didn’t apply as the flights were booked in March – even though the mistake in fact related to her new booking.

As she had paid the disputed funds within that 24-hour window, that doesn’t seem fair to me – but the airline has insisted this is its policy.

K.D asked to speak to a manager but the person on the phone refused to put her through, so she decided to get in touch with me.

I’m pleased to say that when I contacted easyJet, it offered to refund her for the mistaken changes.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry to hear that K.D was unable to travel with us and while she was correctly advised on our policy for changes to flight transfers, we are looking into the difficulty she experienced getting in touch with us by phone and why this may have occurred, as our average call wait times are currently under six minutes.

‘We have also introduced additional measures to support our customers this summer, including extended customer service hours and more advisors in our team than ever before.

‘We have been in touch with K.D to apologise for her experience and refund her for the changes she mistakenly made to her booking as a gesture of goodwill.’

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