Iberia damages Helene Rosenthal’s checked luggage on a flight from Porto, Portugal, to Madrid. Why is it taking so long to pay her damage claim?

Q: I was flying from Porto, Portugal, to Madrid on Iberia. The airline damaged my checked bag, a soft-sided upright bag, tearing a side corner out.

I filed a claim for $129 in damage. I provided Iberia with a receipt for the luggage. It’s been more than three months, but I haven’t heard anything from Iberia. Can you help me with my claim? — Helene Rosenthal, Bedford, Massachusetts

A: I’m sorry about your damaged luggage. Iberia should have taken better care of your personal belongings. And if it damaged your bag, it should have acknowledged the problem and fixed it promptly. It didn’t.

Airlines that toss your luggage around really annoy me. How hard can it be to treat your belongings with care? And that’s particularly true if you’re paying the airline a luggage fee to transport your stuff. Come on!

Since you were flying within the European Union, you were covered by EC 261, the European airline passenger rights regulation.

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Under EC 261, if your checked-in luggage is lost, damaged or delayed, the airline is liable. You’re entitled to compensation up to an amount of approximately 1,300 euros. But if an “inherent defect” caused the damage, then you’re not entitled to any compensation.

Unfortunately, EC 261 doesn’t give the airline a firm deadline. But I think we can all agree that three months is long enough to wait for an airline to respond.

You could have reached out to one of the executive contacts at Iberia. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Iberia’s managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

You can also contact the EU member state airline regulation body via the European Consumer Centres Network. Like the U.S. Department of Transportation, these government organizations have the power to light a figurative fire under an airline like Iberia, and they often do. 

I know what you’re thinking, dear readers. What about the pandemic? Shouldn’t we cut Iberia some slack about a delayed refund? After all, the airline industry has suffered so much. But this damaged luggage incident happened before the pandemic — so, the pandemic is not a valid excuse, I’m afraid.

Why do airlines drag their wings on a damaged luggage case like this? Because they can. There’s no regulatory body policing the claims process. If passengers give up and go away, that’s one less claim an airline like Iberia has to pay. 

I contacted Iberia on your behalf, and it processed your claim in full.