Insel Air lost my luggage and won't return it

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Feb 18, 2016
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Insel Air lost my luggage on a January 1 Havana-Miami flight. I was returning from my honeymoon in Cuba (had a great time!). They found the luggage and I was notified on January 14 that it was in Miami, but I live in DC and they didn't know if they could ship it to me from Miami. They said they'd hold on to it in the meantime while they figured that part out, and would give me a call.

They never called, and never answered their phone when I called. Fast forward to February 17, I finally got a hold of someone. She said that my luggage "was unclaimed and has been sent away to storage" and I'm being charged $4/day for the storage. When I asked where the luggage was being stored, she said she did not know. I reminded her that the luggage WAS claimed and I was waiting for a response from her company about its fate. She shrugged it off and told me she would "call back". I really doubt she will call.

So, in a nutshell: the airline lost my luggage, won't return it to me, and is charging me for the inconvenience.

In the end, I just want my luggage back. It's been 6 weeks. It seems like I have to fly to Miami to retrieve it -- if they can re-locate it, that is! This is a smaller airline company that our travel agent booked us on, and I fear that their lack of accountability means I'll never see my luggage again (or that I'll have to pay a lot to get it back). Help!
 
R

Realitoes

Guest
Jessica,

First congrats on your recent marriage.

Did you fill out a claim with the airline when you arrived back in Miami? If they had lost the luggage then they should get it back to you, even if you are in D.C.

I recommend instead of using the phone, start using email to communicate with them (paper trail). If you haven't already, I would recommend writing them at customerrelations@fly-inselair.com . Request that they return the luggage they lost to you and provide suitable reimbursement per their customer service plan:

Baggage
InselAir works hard to ensure that your checked baggage arrives at your destination with you. However, if your checked baggage does not arrive with you, please contact our Customer Service Lost and Found desk, located at each InselAir destination airport. A notification will be made and InselAir will immediately start the process of retrieving your baggage. We will make all reasonable efforts to return your baggage within 24 hours, compensate you for reasonable expenses that result from the delivery delay and reimburse you for any baggage fees if your bag is lost. Baggage claims can also be made via our customer relations form provided on our website or at any InselAir office.

If you don't get a response from them, let us know so we can advise further.
 
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Feb 18, 2016
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Thank you, Realitoes! I did file a claim on the same day, so I know I'm in the system somewhere (which adds to my frustration). I have not yet tried to email them, figuring that phone was more direct, but will do so now and will update you either way. Much appreciated!
 
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Dec 28, 2014
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Coastal South Carolina
You mentioned a travel agent. Have you contacted the agent for help? After all, you are paying the agent for their expertise and service. A good agent should be able to help you in a situation like this.

@Rebecca beat me to it. Your agent should be able to assist, since s/he chose the airline. It never hurts to attack from more than one angle, so I'd call the agent and ask for assistance.
 
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Jan 23, 2015
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Hmmm, this sounds oddly familiar to me (my luggage was lost last year on the way back from Cuba, different airline, etc., though!).
I managed to get my stuff back using a few different tactics.

First, I was in constant contact in English and Spanish with Havana Air, Ultra Aviation and the third party company that actually ran the flight (name escapes me at the moment, Vision Air, maybe?). I had many email chains, texts and yes, a few phone calls with all of them.

Secondly, when I was feeling most frustrated, I created a claim with the Miami Dade Consumer Affairs division. I didn't think it would come to anything but I was assigned an advocate and she was in constant contact with Ultra and with Havana Air. I checked in with her on a weekly basis, if not more often, depending on what information either of us had. She lit a fire under both companies and ultimately helped me get money back for items stolen from my luggage.

Here's their info -

Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources Office of Consumer Protection
140 West Flagler Street, Suite 902
Miami, Florida 33130-1561
Phone: 305-375-4205
Fax: 305-375-4120
www.miamidade.gov/business

I also made a good contact at Ultra Air who actually did want to help me. If you can find a similar person at Insel, or whoever manages their baggage, that could be a real help to you.

I imagine your issue is similar to mine as neither of us are in Miami (I am in San Francisco) - if you were, they would just drop the luggage off to you. I was very forceful with Havana Air and Ultra that they needed to send the luggage to me on their dime, even though they originally wanted me to pay for FedEx to send it.

Good luck!
 
Feb 18, 2016
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Thank you @Rebecca, @cp556, and @TropicalRichmond for this incredibly helpful feedback. We did contact our travel agency about all of this back in early January, but their attitude was very laissez-faire (there seems to be a trend here). I will have my husband call them today to put this back on their radar and light a fire under them.

@TropicalRichmond, your situation sounds almost identical to mine. I am dealing with Ultra Aviation as well (Insel Air's subcontractor in the US). Everyone I have spoken to there has been a dead end so far -- perhaps your good contact there had the sense to leave! ;) I tried to talk to Ultra Aviation's HQ office but I keep getting turned away. I filed a complaint with Miami-Dade county, great idea. I also reached out to Insel Air via email.

I am normally a patient and forgiving person but this is spiraling out of control, so I really appreciate everyone's advice on how to attack from several angles at once. 6 weeks is just too long! I will certainly be posting updates as they come.
 
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Jan 23, 2015
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Hi, Jessica R.
If you are calling Ultra, you might want to ask for Janet if she still works there. She was really good once she understood the problem. She was the one who basically arranged everything for me.
I don't still have her info (otherwise I'd give it to you!). Her name was Janet C., if it helps. My notes say a Fernando was also involved in getting my luggage back but I don't think I ever spoke w/him.

Just so you know, I think my luggage debacle also lasted about 6 weeks.
I was calling Ultra every day while this was happening. Also texting and emailing with Janet. Being a pest certainly made me memorable.

Don't give up! You can do it!
 

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
29,491
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Kudos to everyone who jumped in on this to help. What great advice!!

I will contact our guru of contacts and see if I can have him find contacts but you state Insel Air and Ultra. Which company is it so I ask him to do the right searching?
 
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Feb 18, 2016
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Hi @Neil, thanks for the message! It's actually both. InselAir is a Dutch Caribbean airline, but they're super small, so they rely on a subcontractor (Ultra Aviation Services) to handle issues on the ground, like lost luggage. I have almost solely been dealing with Ultra Aviation Services.

I called Ultra again today and mentioned that I reported them to the Consumer Protection Office for the issues listed in my original post -- suddenly, they think they can find a solution. Fingers crossed.
 
Feb 18, 2016
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Okay, I have an update! Ultra Aviation confirmed that they can send my luggage to DCA (my closest airport) -- at NO cost to me. The storage charges have also been waived. Ultra has to do some authorization paperwork, so I might not receive my luggage until next week, but it is in the works. I won't count my chickens just yet, but this is the most progress I have experienced in this case for the past six weeks.

I don't think this would have happened without all of your advice on how to "light a fire" under their you-know-whats. Thank you all! I might just make a celebratory post if/when I get my suitcase. :)
 
Feb 18, 2016
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Hi @Joe Farrell! I've heard of people "sneaking" into Cuba through other Latin American countries, but we went straight from the US. Earlier in 2015, the US government relaxed its vetting process for US citizens traveling to Cuba. Technically, it's still not legal for anyone to go purely for tourism, and the list of "approved reasons" for going to Cuba still stands, but they no longer strictly check your activities. That being said, we went for "cultural reasons" -- we stayed with Cuban families the entire time, were accompanied by a Cuban guide most of the time, toured Cuban farms and plantations, etc. so our reasons were pretty legit, and we had visas. Sure, we drank our share of rum and had a great time, but we weren't "off the leash" per se. I had zero issues with US customs officers on the way back (and yes, my passport had a Cuban stamp!).
 
Feb 18, 2016
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Well, we had government-issued visas so thankfully that's not an issue for me. Seems like our travel provider is finally taking the steps to return my luggage -- albeit after 6 weeks of escalated nagging.
 
Aug 31, 2015
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Don't turn around . . . .
Well, we had government-issued visas so thankfully that's not an issue for me. Seems like our travel provider is finally taking the steps to return my luggage -- albeit after 6 weeks of escalated nagging.

I'm really happy that your bag problem is being addressed -

So you had a specific license issued under 15 CFR 515.560? A 'Visa' issued by the Cuban government is not a specific license issued by the US government - I'm curious because there are many many outstanding technical issues the US government could nail people for going to Cuba right now . .
 
Feb 18, 2016
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Our travel was approved by the US government on the way out, and on the way in. We went through a US-based travel agency. My husband is now in officer candidate school (for the Navy) and his superior officers and other government officials vetted the travel. It's not a problem.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,163
13,516
San Francisco
Jessica, this is an astonishing story. I have never heard of an airline who lost the bags, found the bags, stored the bags and shrugged when you asked for the bags. Please let us know when your bag arrives!
 
Aug 31, 2015
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Don't turn around . . . .
I appreciate that- and I am not being argumentative - it is a legit question -

Did you receive the required license under 15 CFR 515.560 for the selected form of travel?

I am curious - and want to know.

The reason why is that the Department of State can permit travel under the rules that prohibit travel - but - the department of treasury still needs to approve your travel in order for you to spend money. The spending of money is how they get most people btw

Just because your future Naval Officer had the approval of his chain of command once again does not mean that you could legally spend money in Cuba . . .
 
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