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
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