5 On Your Side

Denied Lost-Luggage Claims Lead Woman To Five On Your Side

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It happens less than 1 percent of the time, yet missing or damaged luggage ranks No. 2 on the airline consumer complaint list.

In just the first six months of 2006, more than 1.7 million passenger bags were lost.

One of those belonged to Maria Lenger, who learned the hard way how to go about filing a lost-luggage claim. And when she ran into problems, she called Five on Your Side.

Last Christmas, when she and her family returned from a trip to Germany, one of her suitcases was lost. So, she reported the missing bag to Delta Airlines.

"We thought we would get it the next day," Lenger said. "The next day, nobody called."

Lenger kept calling Delta and even checked online. She said a Delta representative told her to wait 30 days to file a claim.

So, Lenger estimated the loss at almost $748, and when it was time, downloaded a claim form from the airline's Web site.

That is when she noticed a line at the bottom of the form saying that "claims should be submitted within 21 days."

"I was upset already because I was like, 'Wait. Great,'" Lenger said.

She said a Delta representative told her to file it anyway and told her she would get a response in four to six weeks. Four weeks later, Lenger called to check on the claim status and was told by a representative that her claim form had never been received.

"I went ballistic," Lenger said.

So, she faxed it to the airline again. Then, nearly two months later, she received a letter denying her claim because she did not submit it within the 21-day time period.

Lenger called customer service and was denied again, she said.

Then, she contacted Five on Your Side, which then contacted Delta. A company representative promised the company would "retrace all the actions" and come to some sort of resolution.

Lenger said she hopes that means the airline will finally pay her claim.

"I'm not willing to let it go," Lenger said.

The Delta spokesman told us he hopes this will be resolved within a few weeks.

The advice for everyone: If an airline loses your luggage, go ahead and file a claim. And send it by certified mail, and request a return receipt. That way you have proof of when it was sent and received.