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Our Lufthansa Delayed Baggage Experience

We checked in some bags on our recent trip from Sylt to Dusseldorf via Frankfurt, and they ended up being delayed. It’s a bigger risk right now than in the past, given all the chaos of travel, so I thought it would be helpful to recap my experience.

Why we checked the baggage on this trip

Many frequent flyers would never check a bag, and I completely understand that. However, I’ve grown warmer to the idea, so let me give you some context:

  • We were traveling for six weeks and realistically it’s just not that easy to pack enough stuff in hand luggage for such a long trip (especially with European airlines which are often stricter on this regarding the size of hand luggage)
  • Although Ford doesn’t like checking bags, he likes having more than one “look” on a trip, and I like being married (most of the time), so “happy husband, happy life” or whatever thing like that
  • Ford taught me the importance of always wearing sunscreen, and we pass plenty of it, especially in sunny destinations (of which there was plenty on this trip); it is better and more economical to bring your own, and it requires checking a bag
  • If you’re flying with an airline like Alaska or Delta (with a 20-minute baggage guarantee), or if you’re flying in Europe, checked bags usually come out pretty quickly and you don’t have to wait that long. at least it was before the summer travel chaos erupted
  • I kind of started to like traveling light through the airport, not having my bag stopped at the liquid checkpoint, etc.; so when Ford checks his bag, I also check my carry-on, because it’s just easier

Lufthansa did not deliver our bag to Dusseldorf on time

We were flying from Sylt to Frankfurt to Dusseldorf with an 80 minute connection (the minimum connection time at the airport is 45 minutes, don’t ask me how). When we landed in Dusseldorf we received an email from Lufthansa stating that our luggage had not arrived on this flight.

Notice from Lufthansa regarding our delayed baggage

Let me say that for the rest of the summer I absolutely would not book an 80 minute connection to Frankfurt and expect my bag to do so. However, we were traveling in the middle of June, and that was just when the trip went from normal busy to incredibly busy.

Before flying that day, we found that travel was still fairly orderly and calm, and we had connected to several hubs in Europe. But it was during that same connection in Frankfurt that we both commented on how the real summer rush started.

Having late luggage is a desperate feeling

The email we received from Lufthansa regarding our delayed baggage mentioned that our baggage had already been ‘booked’ on LH82, the later afternoon flight. We were originally scheduled to arrive at 2:05pm and the other flight was scheduled to arrive at 5:05pm. Great, that’s not too bad.

Rather than waiting at the baggage office to file a claim, the Lufthansa email said to visit the carrier’s website to provide a delivery address and/or contact information. So we quickly filled that in and I chose the option to collect the luggage myself from the airport, as I thought it was the safest and quickest option.

Our bags did not arrive at baggage claim

I wanted to minimize the risk of anything going wrong again, so shortly after LH82’s scheduled arrival time, I returned to the airport. It was only after arriving at the airport, and well past the flight arrival time, that I received a message that our luggage had been “re-booked” on LH88, the flight no longer late at night, due to land at 10:10 p.m.

At this point, I started to worry a bit. There isn’t really human contact with lost luggage, so I wondered if our luggage would just be ‘reserved’ on the next flight to Dusseldorf for eternity. After all, why didn’t the bags make the flight they were originally ‘booked’ on, because there was plenty of time?

Since I was at the airport, I tried to go to the lost baggage office, which is actually a door that leads to baggage claim. The catch is that they won’t let you in unless your bag has arrived. I was informed that our bags had been booked on another flight, there was nothing they could do and there was no one to talk to.

Dusseldorf airport baggage claim gate

Late one night after LH88 landed, I expected to receive one of two emails:

  • An email confirming that our bags had arrived
  • An email that our bags had been “re-booked” on another flight yet again

Instead, we received nothing. So at 7 am I decided to go back to the airport. I decided to take the lack of notice as confirmation that our bags were on the flight they last said they were on.

At this point, I walked to the same door again and, over the loudspeaker, explained that I had bags that had arrived the night before. She claimed there was no record of their arrival and said I would have to wait for confirmation that they had arrived.

I basically begged, and eventually the agent let me in. She took me to the lost baggage office, where there were hundreds of bags. Sure enough, I easily found our bags there.

It was only after I left the airport that I received an email stating that our “delayed baggage arrived at the airport” which was probably triggered by me collecting the luggage and that they checked it.

Email from Lufthansa regarding the whereabouts of our luggage after the fact

You really have to defend yourself in situations where the bags are delayed, and I imagine that will only get worse as the summer wears on. One has to wonder how long the bags would have been there before I received an email that the bags had arrived.

I’m glad I was persistent and didn’t ask for the luggage to be delivered to the hotel, as that would have given me even less power to try and resolve the situation myself.

Either way, all’s well that ends well. Although making two more round trips to Dusseldorf airport was not fun, we finally got our bags about 18 hours after arriving.

European regulations are vague when it comes to bags

The European Union has fantastic consumer protections for air travel in the form of EU261. This protects people in the event of an overrun, overbooking of a flight or delay or loss of luggage. However, not all consumer protections are so clear.

For example, EU261 clearly states the exact dollar amount you are owed if your flight is delayed. When it comes to lost baggage, however, the regulations are much more vague. They simply state that the airlines must reimburse you for all necessary expenses due to delayed baggage, without specifying this further. Of course, on top of that, there’s also credit card protection for delayed baggage.

In this case, we didn’t end up going either way:

  • Initially, we thought our luggage would arrive three hours after our original flight; most credit card protections for delayed baggage kick in after six hours
  • It was after 6pm when we realized our bags wouldn’t arrive until later, and by then most of the shops were closing anyway
  • Even if we owed anything, who knows how many months it would have taken before Lufthansa customer service responded and dealt with our case; Still waiting for news from Eurowings Discover EU261 since our flight several months ago

Our priority was just to get our bags back in our possession as quickly as possible, although I’m curious what experiences others have had with this.

At the end of the line

For the first time in years, we had a delayed baggage situation on a recent Lufthansa flight. All’s well that ends well, and in this case we just got inconvenienced and didn’t get our bags for 18 hours, so it could have been a lot worse.

If you’re traveling this summer and checking in your bags, be sure to leave plenty more time than that when connecting. And ideally, I would recommend not checking baggage at this time, especially if you’re logging in.

My biggest takeaway is how hopeless the whole delayed bag experience is. Your bag basically goes through an automated process, and there’s no one you can talk to who can realistically step in (in other words, you can’t call someone who will find your bag, and you don’t can’t get a real answer because of what’s going on with your bag).

If you’ve dealt with a lost or delayed bag this summer, what was your experience?

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