I want to let you know upfront that the point of this post isn’t to drag Southwest through the mud. The goal of this post is to share what to do with damaged luggage from a Southwest flight. My issues occurred when I flew Southwest. If you have issues with another airline you will need to do separate research for answers. Luggage gets beat up when we fly, I’ve noticed small rips and dirty marks before. There have been a few times where my luggage has been wet from the rain. However, what happened on my most recent trip is unlike anything I have experienced before.
When I pulled my luggage off the conveyor belt I was shocked by how soaking wet both suitcases were. I immediately unzipped the two outside pouches on one of my suitcases to see if anything inside was ruined. I saw that the program from my Grandpa’s funeral and a book both had water damage. To say I was upset/frustrated is an understatement. At this point I had been traveling for over 11 hours and had dealt with delays and other issues. My family was waiting for me outside so I took my bags to the car. I decided I could assess the other damage when I got home after dinner.
Now I know that I should have assessed the damage at the airport. The Southwest policy is that you have four hours after landing to report lost or damaged luggage. This would have been good to know at the time. It also is supposed to be taken care of in person. By the time we got home after eating it had been over 3 hours since my flight.
As I opened up my first suitcase I noticed that everything in my suitcase was not in the same spot they were in when I packed. Bubble wrap that I had on top was now on the bottom. I pulled out pictures and more books and magazines that had water damage. I also found a lot of dirt and sand. Before my most recent flight my luggage had no zipper damage. That is no longer the case. The part that upsets me the most is that most of these items are not things that can be replaced. I brought home cards from when I was little that was given to me by my Grandparents. The water damage on the cards cannot be fixed. Most of the books I brought home that now have water damage are out of print so they can not be replaced. The piles of pictures I brought home from when I was little cannot be replaced.
I felt so lost and sad while I was unpacking. This had never happened to me before and I didn’t know what my next step was. First, I decided to photograph the items with the most water damage which was a People magazine end of the year booklet (it was $16 and brand new) and the handles on my toiletry bag. I also took photos of the dirt on my belongings. Once I realized how much damage I had not only on my suitcase but on the important things inside I googled what to do with damaged luggage from a Southwest flight. It was then that I saw the policy that states that you have a 4 hour time frame to get this dealt with in person.
I immediately called Southwest letting them know I just found out about the policy and that I needed to know what I could do next. The lady I spoke with was not helpful and she did not seem to care one bit that so many precious items that I brought home after my Grandpa’s death were damaged. She criticized me for not opening up my suitcases at the airport to check for the damage there. I know I can’t be alone in wanting to open your luggage up at home in private. Esepcially when you are hungry and tired! Plus, at the time I thought the damage was exclusive to the outside pockets not realizing the amount of water which had sealed inside. When I was not taking no for an answer I was given a number for customer relations and told to call in the morning.
So I called and asked the man who answered up front if he was the right person to talk to about luggage damage. He said he was. I shared my story and while he was very kind and apologetic he told me he was sales, even though I pressed the number for luggage, and that he would have to transfer me. My call was disconnected during the transfer. At that point I decided to go down to the Ontario airport where I had flown in the night before. I spoke with someone in the baggage office. She politely listened to my concerns. I showed her the damage on the outside of my bag and a few of the damaged items on the inside. Once she had create a report for my damages she gave me a piece of paper with information how I could send pictures and additional information.
What have I learned from this experience? The next time that my luggage is soaking wet I will be opening it up at the airport and dealing with it immediately. Yes, it was a frustrating experience but I will still continue to be a loyal customer with Southwest. They have great prices, and I love that they don’t charge extra to check bags.
Another reason I love Southwest is that you can switch or cancel a flight up to 10 minutes before it leaves without losing that money. If you purchases a non refundable ticket you won’t get the money back in your bank account. However, you are able to apply the money towards a future flight without having to pay a penalty. I had to cancel a flight on a different airline once after getting a new job and had to pay a $150 fine to be able to use my money in the future.