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sergegva
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Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2016 9:12 pm

LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:37 pm

On my last trip to South America in late october 2018, I suffered a rather unfortunate misadventure that makes me wonder about how airlines re-route baggage that are missing a connection. I am curious to hear from people who work in the field to see if what happened is normal, or if LATAM's handling of this case was especially catastrophic... More specifically, I ask myself the following questions.

I was planning a backpacking itinerant trip with my girlfriend. We each had a big backpack with everything inside and a very small carry-on with only the bare essentials. Our outward journey was GVA-FRA-GRU>>CGH-IGU (with a LATAM shuttle bus transfer between GRU and CGH), all on a single ticket purchased directly on LATAM's website (Y). Our fights were LH 1227 - LA 8071 - LA 3295, starting October 26th. Not surprisingly, we were supposed to pick up our baggage at GRU and check them back in at CGH. As our GVA-FRA flight was slightly late, the already short connection at Frankfurt became very short. We managed to catch the flight to GRU, but our baggage did not follow, since it was not delivered to us at GRU (same problem happened for several other passengers with the same connection, by the way). We went to the baggage claim desk to fill a file, gave them two delivery addresses for the baggage and took our flight to IGU. First address (for the first 48 hours) was in Iguaçu. Second address (from 2.5 days after our arrival) was in Salta, Argentina (where LATAM fly several times a day).

Long story short: it took them SEVEN DAYS to deliver our baggage, which was obviously not lost but had simply missed the connection in Frankfurt, I remind. Moreover, LATAM never told us which day they were supposed to arrive. Every day we had to reorganize our trip in order to be able to return to the address we had indicated in case the luggage arrived. (Given their total inefficiency, we decided not to give them the succesive list of addresses we planned for the trip, which was changing every day, but to stick to the second stage, which was Salta, Argentina). Once back home, I compiled the meagre informations that LATAM customer service provided to us (I asked them for news every morning) and cross checked them with the list of LATAM flights during the week and with the baggage tag found on the bags when they arrived. I was able to trace their journey fairly accurately and identify the places where LATAM lost hours - even days! - for no apparent reason.

    First problem: missed connection in FRA

Our GVA-FRA flight was only 12 minutes late. On that day, there were only 53 minutes available between flights. I can understand that this is short to transfer baggages from one aircraft to another. But if it's too short, then why is LATAM selling LH 1227 + LA 8071 tickets (GVA-FRA-GRU) on their website? If I had selected this connection myself by going through an intermediary who did not necessarily respect regular/official connections, I would have understood, but this is not the case here.

Question: In your experience, how long does it take to transfer luggage from one aircraft to another at FRA? At what minimum would you advise not to buy a ticket because the very short connection entails a significant risk that the luggage will not follow?

    Second problem: baggage stayed 48h in FRA

There are two daily flights between FRA and GRU (LA8071 & LH506), but both departs at almost the same time. As a result, our baggage has already been delayed 24 hours. Unfortunately and for an unknown reason, LA8071 was cancelled the following day. There are several indications that this was not a last-minute cancellation. So why didn't LATAM sent our baggage with the LH flight? IIRC they even have a codeshare with LH on this flight... But no, they decided that there was no reason to hurry and send the bags with LA8071 48 hours later!

Question: When airlines are responsible for a baggage transfer failure, are they required to carry the baggage on the first available flight, regardless of the airline, or can they wait for a flight that suits them? What happens if the airline operates only one flight a week, but has competitors who fly every day, for example?

    Third problem: Nonsense detour by GRU

By not sending our baggage on flight LH506 or on cancelled flight LA8071 with a 24 hours delay , and from that moment on, it became clear that it would be impossible to deliver them to our first address in Iguaçu within the time limit we specified (Of course, this address and its expiry date was provided in the lost baggage's file and was written at least three times in e-mails we sent to LATAM). Therefore, the delivery address became obviously the second one, Salta, with the natural and logic path beeing Frankfurt-Buenos Aires-Salta (because there are no flights between GRU/CGH and Salta). Guess what? Latam decided to send our luggage to Sao Paulo anyway. With a 48h delay, as said before.

Question: Logistically, can we expect an airline to re-route delayed baggage in the most rational and logical way to its destination, or is it too complicated? I really have trouble understanding the need for this hook by Sao Paulo when Salta was the final destination... Did they tag the baggage FRA-GRU-IGU and then decided it was too complicated to change the tag?

    Fourth problem: 48h of sleep (again) in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires

Our baggage probably arrived in GRU on October 29th at 4:50 am. On that day, it appears LATAM operated 2 flights to Buenos Aires/AEP (7h25 and 18h30). From Buenos Aires/AEP to Salta, LATAM operated 3 flights on October 29th and two on October 30th. Therefore, our baggage should have arrived, at best, on the 29th in the afternoon/evening (LA 7867 + LA 7552/7554), and at worst on the 30th in the morning (LA 7869 + LA 7550). But we were informed of their arrival in Salta airport by an e-mail on November 1st, 1h43 (AM) only. This is another unexplainable delay of 48 hours... After consulting the baggage tag, it seems that 10 hours elapsed between the time the plane carrying our baggage landed in Salta and the time LATAM sent us an email. By the way, this e-mail was in spanish, asking us "what should we do with your baggage?" (even if our delivery address in Salta was provided to them many days ago, of course...)

Question: What factors may explain this delay? Did the baggage simply spent hours in a warehouse for no reason, or is there a whole series of checks (security + customs) to be done before each flight? Can these checks result in a 48-hour delay?

    Fifth problem: From Salta Airport to Salta City: 12 km, 42 hours

The day we received the e-mail informing us of the arrival of our luggage at Salta airport, we were too far away to go there immediately. It should not have been a problem, since we had given a delivery address in the centre of Salta (in a hotel) and notified the latter of the arrival of our bags. On several occasions, I asked Latam to inform us by e-mail as soon as our luggage was delivered to the hotel, in order to coordinate our return. Between the e-mail saying "your baggage is in Salta Airport" and the one saying "We have deliver your baggage to your hotel", 42 hours have passed. For the footnotes: there are ony 12,5 kilometers between Salta Airport and our Hotel. Apparently, it took them almost 24h to bring the bags from the airport to the city, and then another 18h to pass the message to us through their Customer service.

Question: At any airport, when an airline receive a baggage that is already 5 days late, with a delivery address clearly specified, does it wait another two days to drop off the baggage at the hotel? What operational reason could explain this? Frankly, do airlines have any idea of the problem that late baggage can cause, especially when it is the passenger's only baggage?

I am curious to know the opinion of a frequent flyer. Is my case a sequence of unfortunate but not so unusual events, or is it a specific LATAM disaster? Generally speaking, is it too expensive to deal precisely with each piece of delayed baggage, so that overall decisions are made that can favour one passenger and disadvantage another, or is each piece of baggage really taken into account individually? read somewhere that around 1 in 143 pax encounter a baggage litigation, which is quite high when you fly regularly. But out of 100 delayed luggage, how many arrive a week late?

Maybe I'm overreacting to a common problem... But you can imagine what a backpack itinerant trip without the backpack looks like :gnasher:


:airplane: :airplane: :airplane: :airplane: :airplane: :airplane:


I'll finish with the icing on the cake: Latam is reluctant to reimburse us for the first aid items we had to buy back during days when we had nothing with us. 398 dollars in total for two people for 7 days, pretty reasonable, isn't it? Calculated accurately and completely, with almost all required invoices (except for a few pairs of socks bought in street stalls...) and sent in a multi-page file. They're offering $231, without a single line of explanation!

Oh, and of course, not a word of apology or the slightest attention during our entire trip back! Enjoy your half-ruined once-in-a-year holidays :wave:
 
hynithuchi
Posts: 328
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:28 am

Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:30 am

I would think that this is quite a common problem and happened to me as well with TK when flying GVA/IST/BOM/GOA. Our suitcases contained wedding presents, suitable wedding cloths etc and it was quite a disaster. After 3 days and calling several times TK at GVA, I managed to collect the baggage 3 hours before the wedding ceremony from GOA airport. ( No compensation offered nor claimed by me ). So you see, it can happen to all of us and while the baggage tracing system and forwarding procedures are very sohpisticated, they are only as good as the staff who handles them. In your case, I would suggest you start lobbying for a direct flight GVA-GRU, the only way to avoid such problems :D
 
VSMUT
Posts: 2060
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2016 11:40 am

Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:56 am

Hey, 7 days halfway across the world isn't too bad. My record is 6 days from Geneva to Copenhagen, via a 55 minute connection in, you guessed it, Frankfurt!
 
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sergegva
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Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2016 9:12 pm

Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:35 am

I must admit I'm a little surprised.... I naively thought that when a piece of baggage missed the connection, it arrived half a day late, or at worst 24 hours when the company only operates one flight a day on the route in question. I will now try to rethink the distribution of my equipment in my hand versus checked baggage...

However, with the maximum size of cabin luggage in free fall (at least in Europe), there is little room for manoeuvre!
 
IAHWorldflyer
Posts: 693
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:22 pm

Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:46 pm

I don't work for an airline, and I seriously hope that someone who does will answer some of your questions here. I'd love to know the answers. As a frequent flyer, I've only had luggage delayed 2 times in the last 20 years. Once was a delay that caused a short connection in CDG, and once was unbelievably on a nonstop routing where they just "forgot" to load the bag. Both were on homebound journeys, so it didn't dampen my trip.
That said, you probably know the more connections you make, the greater the chances of something going wrong. You did a very complicated routing, especially considering the crosstown between airports in Sao Paulo. Since the next day's FRA-GRU flight cancelled, it made delivering your bag that much more complicated as you had moved from IGU to Salta. Finally, an additional factor involved is the LATAM employees in Argentina probably just didn't have the sense of urgency to forward your bags that you were hoping for. I'm not trying to flame Argentines here, it's just that culturally, most Latin Americans are not going to have the Swiss ( or German) sense of efficiency that you are used to.
In the future, when doing a long journey with multiple stops, I would suggest you pack 2 days worth of socks/underwear/shirts in your hand luggage should something go wrong. I do this anytime I need to check a bag on an international ticket.
 
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sergegva
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Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:20 am

IAHWorldflyer wrote:
You did a very complicated routing, especially considering the crosstown between airports in Sao Paulo.


It was indeed a rather complicated routing, chosen for price and time convenience (moreover, as an aviation fan, I was obviously curious to discover two different airports!).
However, LATAM also operates GRU-IGU flights. The delayed baggage could have flown directly FRA-GRU-IGU without the airport change at Sao Paulo (The schedule in Sao Paulo allows it easily).

IAHWorldflyer wrote:
In the future, when doing a long journey with multiple stops, I would suggest you pack 2 days worth of socks/underwear/shirts in your hand luggage should something go wrong.

I usually have a full change of clothes in my hand luggage. Except this time, of course....
That said, replacing underwear is the easiest problem to solve, because it is easy to find and, above all, the airlines pay back these expenses almost without hesitation. The biggest problem is all the equipment that is essential for the trip, but which does not really fall into the category of basic necessities.... In our case, it was all our mountain equipment.
 
debonair
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Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:16 am

Hi, worked for other airlines in this department and I hope I can answer some of your questions...

One of the biggest challenges itself are the rules of the airlines... Many airlines have strict rules - like forwarding the luggage only on own metal (not on codeshare partners) etc.! Other big problem are the customs in many countries - especially if the bag travels "solo". Very often the luggage is hold back for additional checks - outside the control of the airline.
LATAM is most probably not handling the luggage in FRA, so outsourced to a third party. Maybe the staff lacks some "creativity" - I would have checked, given strict rules, if it would not been easier to send the luggage via MAD on LATAM to SouthAmerica.
 
OlafW
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Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:51 am

As mentioned before, the airline's rules play into it and some or all of them may not be known to us. It seems that sometimes solo bags will make the most direct way, or the one the airline deems most efficient.
From my own experience, multiple connections can make it harder. Similar to your trip, my bag did not make the connection on ZRH-FRA-CLT-SFO trip. Also in FRA, but that's what happens when your arriving flight is touching down on the runway at the time boarding of your onward flight is supposed to start, I don't blame the airport for that. With only one daily flight FRA-CLT, US Airways chose the next day to carry my bag to the US and have it connect to SFO. It must have arrived there around 7pm, and although promised to be at the hostel before 1 am the following day, I only got it between 5 and 8 am. 12 hours from SFO to Union Square is quite long. But then again, I guess they will collect some bags to make a tour worthwile. That might have been the case in Salta for you.
I also had a case where the airline rerouted the bag, apparently to save cost for taxi transfer. While I flew ZRH-DUS-NUE, my bag made ZRH-DUS-MUC-ERF. Maybe LATAM didn't react in a similar way for customs reasons or there are differences between LATAM Brazil and LATAM Argentina (no idea who does which flights on your itinerary).

As unhappy as you are about this, and I can fully understand that, it could be a really unfortunate combination of missed connection, canceled flight, rules to keep baggage on own metal, maybe a full flight (where your bags were left behind so the airlines only has one delayed baggage case instead of two) and collecting baggage for single delivery. Factor in that at some place someone may have forgotten about your case or couldn't find your bag in storage (stranger things have happened), and there you have your multi-day delay. Again, certainly not how it should be, but it can happen. Hope everything works better on your return.
 
L410Turbolet
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Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:51 am

sergegva wrote:
I must admit I'm a little surprised.... I naively thought that when a piece of baggage missed the connection, it arrived half a day late, or at worst 24 hours when the company only operates one flight a day on the route in question


I've had a similar ordeal with AA during my trip to the US this April. It took them 5 days and numerous phone calls to deliver lost bag from TYS where it was mistakenly delivered instead of much closer TRI airport, even though each airport has at least 5 flights per day to AA's hub in CLT. TYS and TRI are 160 km apart.
 
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9MMPQ
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Re: LATAM delivered my baggage 7 days late, after a series of incredible mistakes

Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:18 pm

sergegva wrote:
Question: In your experience, how long does it take to transfer luggage from one aircraft to another at FRA? At what minimum would you advise not to buy a ticket because the very short connection entails a significant risk that the luggage will not follow?


All depends how your bag is labelled, where it is loaded and if you maybe face a transfer between 2 different ground handling agents. My personal cut off transfer time when booking is 1 hour 30 minutes and preferably i'd like a little bit of padding on top of that. It's not FRA specific but i've had numerous small delays caused by ramp congestion, ATC delays and so on which can quickly eat into your transfer window if it's down to the almost bare minimum. Anything below an hour might be possible but call me sceptical ;)

sergegva wrote:
Question: When airlines are responsible for a baggage transfer failure, are they required to carry the baggage on the first available flight, regardless of the airline, or can they wait for a flight that suits them? What happens if the airline operates only one flight a week, but has competitors who fly every day, for example?


As far as i remember the only obligation is to get the bag to you in a reasonable timeframe. What is reasonable is up for discussion. For the second part of your question it really depends if there are agreements for unaccompanied baggage with those competitors. If not then you are stuck. From behind the screens i can tell you that partner airlines can have odd exceptions that are not apparent from the outside.

sergegva wrote:
Question: Logistically, can we expect an airline to re-route delayed baggage in the most rational and logical way to its destination, or is it too complicated? I really have trouble understanding the need for this hook by Sao Paulo when Salta was the final destination... Did they tag the baggage FRA-GRU-IGU and then decided it was too complicated to change the tag?


A process like this really depends on more input & some extra oversight. Going via multiple stations you're likely going to deal with the departments at each of those stations who may or may not be quick to deal with these things & pick it up. These may be the airline's own staff or a contracted ground handling agent.

sergegva wrote:
Question: What factors may explain this delay? Did the baggage simply spent hours in a warehouse for no reason, or is there a whole series of checks (security + customs) to be done before each flight? Can these checks result in a 48-hour delay?


There is extra security screening involved for unaccompanied bags & customs may want to have a look too. No way to really tell why the 48 hour delay. Quite possible you faced both & staff having to pick up the case and make the next arrangements.

sergegva wrote:
Question: At any airport, when an airline receive a baggage that is already 5 days late, with a delivery address clearly specified, does it wait another two days to drop off the baggage at the hotel? What operational reason could explain this? Frankly, do airlines have any idea of the problem that late baggage can cause, especially when it is the passenger's only baggage?


In my experience the delivery of bags is virtually always done by other contracted service providers. Think everything from local courier company to the bigger well known couriers like TNT, UPS & Fedex. Depending on the company it's entirely possible that they could not provide an immediate delivery.

To add 2 examples where i have been on the receiving end, i have had my delayed bag transferred by DL to a New York courier service. We were staying outside of the city & DL notified us the bag had arrived and was transferred to the courier for next day delivery. Bag didn't show and DL was in touch with the courier company. In one of the last emails they left some details of the courier used and at the end of third day i called them directly. They were quite honest in saying they had it scheduled for the next day as they had nothing going our way earlier. I'm assuming they were putting it together with other stuff to deliver.

Other time KL handed my delayed bag over to TNT for delivery to my house. Got a TNT tracking number but nothing showed up for 2 days. Called TNT who told me my bag was sitting in a warehouse near the airport with no delivery yet planned, would probably be after the weekend so another 2 days later. Fortunately i live only about 30 minutes away so i went to collect it myself.
I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences.

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