The Air Berlin saga: how they lost my luggage and refuse to refund (and they’re not even sorry)

How annoying and frustrating is it when companies provides awful customer support and obstinately refuse to pay compensation owed by statutory right?

This is my story about my adventures with Air Berlin. After loosing my luggage, they provided poor customer support and, more worryingly, they refused to refund the purchase for essential items.

The flights went all well and I landed safely at destination. Well, at least I did, my luggage decided to go on a detour. And as in most cases, bad luck comes in threes.

The first step to do in these cases is to log a report so that baggage handling companies and airports can attempt to locate the naughty self-wondering luggage. So that is what I did. Report lodged, I had only left to wait for some news. Because Air Berlin is really committed to get to their customers’ hearts, you would expect them to get in touch with an apology, you would expect them to be proactive with updates about the problem, or at least to give some sign that they know that you exist.

None of that, no emails, not even a word.

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A few weeks go by and suddenly, my baggage appears at my door. It came back to its beloved owner, walking on its two legs. What a surprise, considering I had no idea it had been found or was getting delivered. Maybe that’s how Air Berlin loves to do cheeky surprises to its customers.

During those weeks I decided to buy myself a few “superfluous” things that went lost with my luggage. You know what I mean, things like underwear, toothpaste, a shaver. Or the type of things which you need in a rainy country like Scotland, for example a rain jacket and waterproof shoes.

Air Berlin thinks it’s perfectly fine for their passengers to go around wearing pants they wore for 2 weeks, with bad breath, a wild beard and to get soaked in the rain.

I would have liked Air Berlin to refund me for these purchases. In fact there is something called “Montreal Convention” in which all airlines agree to provide rights to their passengers, including compensation due to cancelled flights, lost baggage or, like in my case, reimbursements for purchasing essential items.

As my travel insurance at the time did not cover this type of incidents, I had a right to request Air Berlin to refund such costs. I went on a special section of their website, and filled in a claim with all of my flight details and attaching all the receipts of the purchase for the essential items.

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After submitting my request for compensation, I got a rather reassuring confirmation message which said, it would have taken “a little time” for Air Berlin to get back to me.

Now, I didn’t ask myself how long “a little time” is. I would have thought perhaps a day, maximum a week or a fortnight. However the ones of us who acquired a certain wisdom, would argue that time is a relative concept. And in fact it is now over two months since my request and I haven’t heard a thing.

From time to time I have been chasing the matter, and so here is a summary of my Air Berlin saga.

  • 08/09 Embarked on an Air Berlin flight
  • 09/09 Luggage did not turn up at the belt at Berlin Tegel, I lodge a “missing baggage” report the same day
  • 24/09 Luggage turns up unexpectedly at my door
  • 27/09 Lodged a request for refund, providing all of the details of my flight and attaching all receipts of purchases
  • 11/10 Sent an email chasing up the complaint
  • 20/10 Received an email asking me to take part in a customer satisfaction survey to answer how well they managed my claim (by taking the link I could also win a free flight with magnificent Air Berlin. What more can one want from life?)
  • 24/10 Got in touch with Air Berlin via their twitter channel, been told to wait patiently as they would chase the matter with the Guest Relations team
  • 02/11 Chased Air Berlin via twitter a second time, been told to wait patiently (I answered back advising that they better check the office at Guest Relations just in case a Carbon Monoxide leak might have silently killed all of the folks in there)
  • Sent a “Mahnverfahren”. In Germany this is a judicial procedure which orders a payment from another party. It’s effectively one step before bringing matters to a Small Claims Court.
  • 07/12 Received an email from Air Berlin asking me to provide… receipts of essential items purchased (yes, again)
  • … and the comic Air Berlin saga goes on

My question is, why would a company not be answering back this sheer scale of complaints, letters and emails?

I can only think of two reasons: they have an incredible amount of complaints that they are unable to handle (and this shows that they clearly have issues not only with dealing with complaints but actually with the causes of the complaints); or they are deliberately following a practice of avoiding refunds.

Either way, is this a company that can be trusted, especially considering they should provide the maximum of the safety once you are up in the air?

Have you had a problem with Air Berlin? Perhaps they have a practice of systematically avoiding refunds? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.

  • I also had the same thing happen to me . I had a lay over in Germany and when I arrived in NYC my luggage was no where to be found . I’ve called countless times sent emails reached out on Facebook .. nothing … no clue if I’ll ever get my suitcase back

  • Never take this Airline again.
    They are undependable.!
    The same thing happened to me. After 9 months, I am still waiting to be rembursed.! Not even one answer .!

  • Just happened to me and 20 other passengers. Flight from Berlin to Vienna 17.5.17. I just hope, I get my baggage back.:(?!? Don’t know how long it will take! Please share your experiences.

    • Make sure you lodge an official “lost baggage” case and you will be assigned a case number. Then it depends on what happens. If you bag gets found within 21 days, you can claim a refund on expenses you incurred.
      If your baggage does not get found within 21 days you can get a refund for it being lost.
      In either case, after 21 days, you will have to make a second request through Airberlin’s complaint form. Wait for a few weeks but it is almost impossible that they will ever answer. So at that stage, do not waste any more time. File a complaint to the SOP of your country or in Germany at https://soep-online.de/request-form-flight.html

  • Me too. Just got back from a trip. On the way there, Air Berlin lost my luggage for 4 days. I filed a claim. When I tried to check status: They did not answer the phone number they provided. They did not reply to an email provided on the lost luggage website. My hotel helped out by calling them several times, and finally they called me back. They claimed I would be reimbursed for necessary expenses. I filled out the form online, but it wouldn’t accept receipt images uploaded from my phone because they exceed their file size limit (seriously, how much trouble do they want their customers to go to?). There appears to be no easy way to check status. The lost luggage desk at the airport was unstaffed, and the phone they provide to call when the desk is unstaffed went unanswered. Ok, I got my suitcase back, right? Better than having it lost, right?

    On the flight back home…they lost my luggage again! Really!

    And now I wait…

  • Going through this right now! They lost the baggage of nearly 20 people on our flight from SFO to Rome with a layover in Berlin. They magically found my sister’s bag (checked with mine) which was of significantly less value than mine, which is – no surprise – still missing. All I’m given are links to things, unanswered emails, or voicemails that are ignored or too full to take another message. Their Twitter bot is good at sending links and making it seem like they’re doing something.

    In the meantime there are carts full of luggage in various airports – just sitting there through no fault of the passenger.

  • This is unbelievable. Same thing happened to me. I’m creating a facebook page called Airberlin lost luggage 2017. We should pursue a class action lawsuit.

  • One more here… Having a layover in TXL to continue to Frankfurt (29.07, both flights initially from airberli). But the first flight was around 2h delayed so, no surprise, I missed my connection – try to run from gate A to gate C at TXL – even with gold olimpic medal in sprint there is no way.
    Got moved for the Lufthansa flight (thanks god now they are dealing with my lost bag – at least I can contact those guys). But here the fun part starts… Knowing that I have few hours of waiting time for next flight and knowing that TXL is a mysterious place where massive amount of bags are getting lost and delayed I asked how about my bag, and how likely it is that it will come with me to Frankfurt this is the answer I got:
    “Most likely it will arrive with you, but currently we are having some problems with our baggage company so I can’t promise you” Hearing that I knew that this is going to happen. Since my new flight was from lufthansa this is where I went to ask about my bag. Immediately I was told that it is still in Berlin but here the lady was a bit more optimistic and she said “no worries, there is plenty of connections between Berlin and Frankfurt so your bag will quickly come back to you, most likely even within 24h”… The day after no information – my bag was not found. Monday two days after flight I got a text saying “We found your bag, it will come to Frankfurt with a flight number AB… (air berlin again …) and was supposed to be there around 1pm (31.07). Later in the evening I saw that the status of my bag has changed again and in the system it looks as if it was not found!!!. So I called the 0800 number and asked what is going on and I was told “Your lagguage didn’t make the way to Frankfurt, it seems it is still in Berlin”. Now we have 02.08 and still have no idea what happen to my bag but what i know for sure is: never more airberlin and never more TXL.

    • Yes, never more Airberlin for sure. But TXL or another German airport is probably going to be same as the issue is not the airport but as you mentioned it’s the baggage handling company which is Wisag. So you will still get Wisag in Dusseldforf, Frankfurt, Munich or even the same Berlin SXF.

    • And after two weeks my suitcase is finally back with me!! Seriously it is a joke that it took so long to deliver it from Berlin to Frakfurt… Even with visible name tag and properly attached barcodes at the airport…

  • My boyfriend flew from Texas to Vienna the 26th of July. We’re about to move to Prague together. They lost his bag which contained everything he needed for moving here! All his clothes, personal stuff, just everything! Just like everybody, nowhere to call, emails answered automatically, no help, no informations. It’s been 19 days and we lost hope for seeing it again! We’re pretty desperate, we’re not one of those people who can afford such a lost! I’m sure a lot of people cant though! I cant beleive such a bussines exists! They have no shame obviously!

  • God I wish I had seen this before I booked my trip from Boston to Florence in May. Our trip was in July and it was a nightmare. We were stranded in Dusseldorf for 12 hours to start! There is so much that went on in the next week, lost luggage etc then cancelled return flight blah blah blah. I’ve been waiting for a response to my 2 claims for a month and now they declared bankruptcy yesterday and I have been told that I am out of luck and won’t see a dime. At least I’m not alone. >tear…

  • Same thing just happened to me. My flight was from NYC to CPH. Missed connection in DUS. Re-routed through TXL to CPH.

    Filed a claim immediately but they haven’t found anything or let me know anything in the last 72 hours.

    No acknowledgement. No answer on the phone. I flew business class too.

  • My daughter is missing three bags. Unfortunately, because of Air Berlin’s insolvency, people who lost bags before August 15, 2017 will have to seek compensation through the insolvency process. Bags lost after that date, well, I guess we hope and wait.

  • Me and my huband flew air berlin from SFO to Berlin via Dusseldorf! Along with few others, inspite of being told to collect the baggage at Berlin airport never saw our bags on the belt. Filed a claim, lost everything!!! Our vacation is ruined along with the huge financial loss. I hope n wish we see our bags some day. Never ever!

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