Sherry and Paul's Transatlantic Ordeal - A Successful Fight for Refunds and Lost Luggage
Welcome to Saving Money with Andrew!
Sherry and Paul live in a charming countryside town in central England. Unfortunately, they flew during the travel chaos of late 2022, experiencing several travel misfortunes. I caught up with them about their experience and lessons learned:
Tell us a bit about yourselves
Paul and I live in England. We’re both in our late 50s with two children: Halley (18, still at home) and Hannah (27). In December, we flew to Denver to celebrate Christmas with family.
I heard your recent trip to the US had a lot of twists and turns, tell us all about it
Paul booked our flights a year in advance through a travel agency. But between the booking and our trip, the company went bankrupt without having booked our flight!
Our credit card company provided a full refund, but by then, there were no direct flights left in a reasonable price range with any airline. We were stuck booking with Icelandair and connecting through Reykjavik.
It was dark when we landed in Reykjavik and an intense snowstorm kept us parked on the runway. From our window we could see our suitcases blowing off the baggage trucks into the darkness. Finally, we raced through the terminal to our connecting flight, which stood on the runway as workers tried to collect everyone’s luggage from the snowdrifts.
We arrived in Denver late and exhausted, almost a day after we took off. Our luggage was gone, and our only recourse was to file a luggage claim through the airline website. An automated email response told us we would hear from them in four weeks!
The next day, we dashed out to buy essentials, but our lost luggage was always on my mind. For days, I called Icelandair. I spoke to cargo freight guys in Denver and Reykjavik, a call center in the South Pacific, an Icelandair booking agent in Florida, airport personnel at Denver Airport, and a few other poor sods who happened to pick up a ringing phone somewhere on this planet. Nobody knew anything.
Over the course of a fortnight, I drove back to the airport four times in search of our luggage. But Icelandair had no one in the airport unless there was a flight taking off right then. I spent hours wandering the airport in a fruitless search.
But the next day, I found an agent at the “Baggage Recheck” desk. Not only did she recognize my name, she remembered my exact bags. Unfortunately, the airline had only one person dealing with everyone’s lost bags and the agent directed me to come back later. Hah! I said I'd wait as long as it took.
Hours later, someone reappeared, promising to deliver my bags to the home we were visiting between midnight and 6am. I waited all night, but nobody came. Finally, our last bag arrived at 11pm the following night.
Our trip was almost over, but we had finally recovered our bags. But in spite of our horrible experience, the airline charged us $100 in baggage fees for taking an extra bag home!
What have you learned from your experience?
Travel insurance worked for us. Paul was able to recover some of our expenses (their coverage maximum) with them without too much work.
The trip also made us wary of smaller airlines. In a bid to expand their number of routes into the US, Icelandair bought routes from JetBlue, but clearly wasn’t ready to support the volume.
Also, when you use a flight comparison website, check to see who is actually selling you the tickets. If it’s a travel agency or other third party (more common in the UK though not unheard of in the US), research the company thoroughly. Try to deal directly with the airline when possible.
Finally, be wary of booking a flight with a connection, even if it’s a much better deal. In addition to the inconvenience, each connecting flight is another chance to lose your luggage.
Are there any words of wisdom or other money-saving tips you'd like to share with the Saving Money with Andrew readership?
In the UK, the best and easiest way to get a refund for a non-existent ticket is through your credit card company under the Consumer Credit Act. I would guess in the US it’s similar. The moral of the story is to always pay with a credit card rather than a debit card, because your recourse could be limited (or much more time consuming) if you didn’t.
And now, Andrew’s pick(s) of the week:
Cunk on Earth (on Netflix) is the funniest thing I’ve watched in years. You can get a full description from the site, or read some of the rave reviews online, but I encourage you to simply start watching, not knowing what to expect. Diane Morgan is simply incredible and I can’t wait to watch some of her other work.
I hope this has been helpful. If you liked it, please share it on social media! Also, please send me your feedback, requests, and success stories.
 I’m not a fan of travel insurance. But it worked for Sherry and Paul.