denied boarding because bag failed to transfer

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Jan 6, 2016
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#1
I posted this on another travel forum and someone suggested I post it here because there were conflicting opinions. Last week, when my son and I presented our boarding passes in Hong Kong for the last leg of our trip (back to the US), my son was denied at the gate because Delta had not yet received his bag from the previous airline (Cathay Pacific). This came as a surprise, since this was purchased as a R/T ticket and our boarding pass showed that our baggage was checked through from BKK to SEA. We had no access to his bag during the 8 hour layover in HK. I am aware that the bag cannot travel without the passenger, but in this case, they misplaced our bag and then Delta denied us boarding because the gate employee mistakenly (I presume) thought this was the rule. The two airlines blamed each other, and both treated us as though we should be grateful that we were getting transported home for "free" on a re-routed ticket (12 hours late). Because our flight from BKK had departed at 1 am, followed by an 8 hour layover in HK, the extra delay was painful for us because all flights and airports were packed with holiday travelers and we had no sleep. When we finally did land in SEA we had been awake for nearly 60 hours! I contacted customer service and they acknowledged that this situation had been "mishandled", offering us $50 gift cards as compensation. This amount seemed inadequate to me given that Delta's Contract for Carriage--International sets the compensatory amounts for passengers involuntarily denied boarding at 400% the cost of the one-way fare, to a max of $1,350 per ticket. We met all criteria described in this contract to be eligible for this compensation, except that I cannot tell from the contract's wording if compensation only applies to involuntary denial of boarding due to overbooked flights (I do know that this flight was completely full and that our seats were given away to standby passengers, in case that matters). Our tickets are printed as "involuntary re-routing" and "bill to Delta" and we kept all documentation (original boarding passes with bag check). CP gave us the exact scan times for our bags, which shows that my son's bag had been located at the time he was denied boarding. We are longstanding Delta SkyMiles members, and I certainly expected a more customer-friendly response to my complaint. What compensation are we entitled to? If $0, what would a reasonable amount to expect be, if we are persistent with our request? Any suggestions as to how to proceed? They have ignored my communications since I asked for additional compensation. Thanks.
 

technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#2
The answer is it depends. The law states that if an international airport screens its baggage via electronic means and has an agreement with the US, the bag can fly. If they don't have an electronic screening system, then either the bag must fly with the passenger, or be manually searched, or sniffed by an explosives dog. I've no idea if Hong Kong has an electronic screening system or an agreement, but I'd be shocked if they didn't.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/44901 Has the law if you want to see for yourself.

To me, they lost the bag. They could've manually searched it and gotten your son on that plane. To me, your son was denied boarding and are due compensation IAW the 400% law you mentioned.

Use our company contacts at the top of the page and write a short, polite email to the first executive on the list. Wait a week, if no response go to the next. Write one at a time, and do not start with the CEO. I assume you purchased the trip through Delta, so go through them.

Please let us know of any questions or updates, and good luck.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#3
Tech gave you the right answer. Use our Company Contacts page on top for Delta. Write to Customer Service first, give them a week to respond. If they don't or you don't like the answer, write to the first executive shown. Repeat weekly until you get to the top of the chain. But I don't think you'll have to get all the way to the top before you get an answer.

Let us know what happen because we have Chris if they don't give you a response once you've gone as far as you can.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#4
To speak to your question about over booking:

Overbooking compensation (i.e., 'Denied Boarding') is governed by DOT 14 CFR 250.9
This applies for mandatory compensation, but airlines may voluntarily compensate passengers in a similar manner. And they determine the value of the missed connection.
 
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technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#5
To speak to your question about over booking:

Overbooking compensation (i.e., 'Denied Boarding') is governed by DOT 14 CFR 250.9
This applies for mandatory compensation, but airlines may voluntarily compensate passengers in a similar manner. And they determine the value of the missed connection.
It's true the son wasn't overbooked. But the airline still messed up. Morally if not legally, I think they're due the compensation.
 
Likes: VoR61
Oct 5, 2015
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#6
Airlines mishandle baggage quite frequently and they are shipped afterwards as unaccompanied baggage, so there is no reason to detain or hold a pax just because his luggage was not transferred with him. Your son is owed denied boarding compensation.

I noticed you said WE. How old is your son? Were you also denied boarding? Or did you voluntarily ask to be put on a later flight with your son. I know this might sound terribly unfair but Delta was not denying YOU to board, only your son. I was wondering if they repriced your ticket and it ended up more expensive than your son's denied boarding compensation.

Again I didn't say I agree with Delta because they were wrong. I just was trying to figure out why there was no compensation. There really should be.
 

technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#9
Here is how I would write the letter.

Dear Mr/Ms X,

On (insert date), my son and I were scheduled to fly on DL (insert flight #) from Hong Kong to Seattle as a part of (insert reservation # here). It was a connecting flight from Bangkok with an 8 hour layover and our baggage was tagged through to our final destination. When we attempted to board, my son was denied boarding. The gate agent claimed they had not received the bag from the connecting airline and therefore my son couldn't fly. We were rebooked on flight (insert flight #) 12 hours later.

Our original itinerary already had an 8 hour layover, so this made the trip pretty grueling. In all, we were up 60 hours travelling as we couldn't find a place to stay in Hong Kong and the airport was so packed with holiday travelers we couldn't sleep.

The gate agent was incorrect that bags must travel with the passenger. 49 United States Code 44901, part (e), states that bag match programs are one alternative to electronic screening where it's not available. Even if Hong Kong does not have electronic screening, his bag could've been manually searched per that section of code and placed on the next aircraft to Seattle. There was no reason for us to be denied boarding.

We have been offered a $50 gift card each. I don't believe this is adequate compensation due to the length of the delay and the fact that by law we could've flown without the bag. As we were unnecessarily and involuntarily rerouted due to circumstances beyond our control, I request compensation in line with what US law guarantees overbooked passengers who are involuntarily bumped - 400% of our one way fare, or (insert value here).

We have both been satisfied Delta customers for years, and look forward to continuing to fly with you. Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,
Your Name
 
Oct 5, 2015
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#10
Our original itinerary already had an 8 hour layover, so this made the trip pretty grueling. In all, we were up 60 hours travelling as we couldn't find a place to stay in Hong Kong and the airport was so packed with holiday travelers we couldn't sleep.
I suggest to remove this. This is irrelevant because the passenger chose the connection in HKG.
What is relevant is the number of hours (delay) between scheduled arrival versus actual arrival to destination because the pax was denied boarding.
 
Oct 5, 2015
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#11
Some small advice you can use

Whenever you fly international, do not push you luck by flying via NON Hub cities of an airline.

For example, Delta's primary Hub in Asia is Tokyo, Narita (NRT). From, NRT Delta has many fifth-freedom flights to other Asian country destinations including Bangkok.

Delta also routes SEAsia via a secondary hub in Seoul (ICN) by virtue of their Skyteam alliance with Korean Air.

upload_2016-1-6_11-42-37.png


Hong Kong (HKG) is not a hub for Delta. If you end or start your trip in HKG, that's fine. But if you extend your trip via HKG, then your baggage will be interlined.
And since Delta has only one flight to/from Hong Kong then you can assume the ground staff there is outsourced and likely incompetent.

HKG is the hub for Cathay Pacific and they are great if your whole trip is on CX only.

My point is you owe yourself more travel planning.
When in doubt, stay on the internal network of the airline. Do not interline if you can avoid it.
Intelligent Flight Routing is very important for achieving a great trip.
 

technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#12
One thing to mention here...Delta may balk at the 400%. And I can see this wasn't entirely their fault, but the fault of Hong Kong airport staff. Still, I think $50 is peanuts for a 12 hour unnecessary delay. That's not even minimum wage, which would be $87. Me, I'd settle for $200 cash back each.

I'm simply saying, be prepared to negotiate a bit.
 
#13
A few thoughts:

Bags fly without passengers all the time - if they lose your bag and need to re-route and properly deliver it - then it flies by itself - they're not going to require you to fly to your bag!

Next - lots of Delta complaints lately - have they gone off the deep end as well?
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Jan 6, 2016
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#14
Wow, thanks! A very knowledgeable group here. Those are some really good tips.
My son is 23 years old, so yes, I could have boarded the flight and he could have flown home without him. However, both of our replacement boarding passes were labeled "involuntary re-routing" and "bill to Delta", and we were BOTH offered the $50 gift card compensation. Does that mean they are acknowledging that this happened to both of us, not just him?
Also, at the point in time that I made the decision not to board, we were hanging out at the gate in a state of disbelief and sleep deprivation, waiting to see if my son's bag would show up in time. (It was actually scanned by Delta at 2:01 pm and the flight left the gate at 2:20, but we did not learn that until later.) Delta gave us no indication of what, if anything, they were going to do to get us home. At no point in time were we given the written information re: involuntary denial of boarding described on Delta's customer commitment web page. We did not know what our options were going to be, but I did know that my son, a college student, had no money in his bank account, no credit cards, and no international calling on his cell phone. Without answers to our questions, I could not in good conscience leave him stranded and empty-handed in Hong Kong. Maybe it still comes back to whether my conversations with Delta are focused on "letter of the law" or on quality of customer care.
Thanks for your feedback! I'm going to use some of those tips.
 
Oct 5, 2015
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#16
@caraarj
You are in the right track using Delta's own Carriage of Contract against them, or in your favor.

Fact #1: There was no legitimate purpose to hold and bump a transit passenger because his/her baggage failed to transfer. If Delta wants this to be a contractual issue, then they should have placed it in their COCs.

Fact #2: You were involuntarily denied boarding (despite your compliance with their COC) and arrived at your destination more than 12 hours later.

Therefore they owe you 4x ticket cost or USD 1350.00 each as per RULE 87 F. 2.
Where Delta cannot arrange Qualifying Alternative Transportation
If Delta cannot arrange Qualifying Alternative Transportation, then Delta will pay denied boarding compensation in an amount equal to 400% of the fare (including any surcharges and air transportation taxes) to the passenger's next stopover, or if none, to his/her final destination, but not more than USD 1350.00.
 
Jan 6, 2016
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#17
OK, so I tried some of the suggestions offered here (and thank you SO much!). Here is where it stands with Delta. I sent an online complaint, a refund request and then a letter. My son and I have received 4 responses from Delta:
1. $50 gift cards for each of us
2. $100 gift cards for each of us
3. Another set of $100 gift cards (not sure if this is instead of, or in addition to the previous ones)
4. $150 gift cards for each of us and $94 reimbursement for our expenses while delayed
The latest response from Delta states that the 400%/max of $1,350 each rule does not apply to our situation because the denial of boarding was not caused by an overbooking. They admit that the situation was mishandled but feel that their goodwill gesture is adequate.
The amount seems low to me, given that my son and I are longstanding Delta SkyMiles members and we've been offered more by Delta for voluntarily giving up our seats on domestic routes. In this case, we were painfully inconvenienced (12 hour delay/60 hours with no sleep!), and the boarding denial was involuntary and due to their gate employee's mistake.
Strangely, I also heard from the other airline that was responsible for the luggage delay (I'd forgotten that I filed a complaint with them as well). They said they are very busy handling requests and don't have time to give my claim the full attention it deserves, but they are willing to send us each $100 cash.
So, here are my questions:
1. I don't know if I can collect on all of the above or if accepting one precludes collection on the other offers, especially the multiple offers within Delta (sent from two separate departments). Is it OK to accept the compensation from airline #1 for the baggage delay and from airline #2 for the involuntary boarding denial? Can I also accept more than one of Delta's 4 separate gift card offers?
2. What would you do? Take what was offered and be happy that there was some compensation, or pursue this further? Delta does not seem to budge significantly on the amount, unless we can cash in on all offers, which brings the total amount to $400 each in gift cards and $94 expense reimbursement. They have acknowledged their Delta gate employee's error.
3. Should I call to negotiate with a live person? If so, is there a contact person or department?
Thanks for your opinions and suggestions!
 
Oct 5, 2015
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#18
Strictly speaking they are correct. The narrow interpretation of involuntary denied boarding is under the context of overbooked flights. The same is true for the DOT rules.
This is quite sad because it means Delta will not treat you similarly if it denies you boarding even when they screw up. I am speechless :(
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#19
Adding that up it comes to almost $700 (perhaps $900 if the second batch of cards is real) for a 12 hour delay. I suggest you accept the offer unless the gift cards have a limited use of which you cannot take advantage.
 
Likes: Neil Maley

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#20
Have you written to the executives of Delta? If not, I would try contacting them before making any decisions. If your letter is well written, polite, concise and undemanding but direct on what you feel would be fair compensation, I think you have a chance for a better resolution than what has been presented to you. The fact that the gate agent mishandled the situation is not your problem. You were denied boarding regardless if the reason was overbooking by the airline or a blunder by an employee. The bottom line is you did nothing that could be deemed responsible for the denied boarding.

I, personally, do not feel that $150 per person is adequate compensation. If all three offers are valid and usable then I feel they are getting 'close' to a fair compensation. The question for you is, do you and your son plan to travel within a year and, if so, will you be able to fly on Delta?