Ed and Kathy Colbert arrived at the Savannah airport aboard a JetBlue flight a year ago, looking forward to a few days relaxing at a resort on nearby Hilton Head Island.
But Kathy’s checked bag did not arrive with them.
It had been left behind in Boston, an apologetic JetBlue agent told the Colberts. “We’ll put it on the next flight to Savannah and deliver it to your hotel,” the airline said. “We’ll give you daily updates.”
But the Colberts got no bag and no updates. A year later, they still have no bag, nor have they been compensated.
Last month, Ed emailed me asking for help because, he said, JetBlue keeps giving them confusing and contradictory information on how to submit a claim.
“Why is JetBlue putting us through all of this?” Ed asked me.
The Colberts did as they were instructed back in August 2022. Before leaving the Savannah airport, they filed a missing baggage form that included the all-important bar-coded “tag number.” With the tag number, the airline says, it can conduct a “worldwide electronic search” for missing bags.
But no help this time. As they waited in vain for the bag, the Colberts bought clothing and toiletries at the hotel gift shop.
After they returned to their Peabody home, they received an email saying their reimbursement request for lost luggage was under review.
That was odd because the Colberts hadn’t filed such a claim. They were still hoping JetBlue would find the bag. Still, the email contained valuable information on how to file a claim, including a link to start the process.
That same day, Ed called JetBlue for an update. But he was put on hold by the baggage department. After a while, he hung up and called the number for reservations. He said he talked to “a very nice woman named Tessa.”
Tessa apologized for the lost bag and told him to buy replacements for everything lost, including a new bag, and to be sure to save the receipts for reimbursement.
“That’s how it’s done,” Ed remembers her saying.
A week later, Ed went to Logan Airport on a hunch he could cajole someone into helping him.
What he learned was contrary to what he was told in Savannah. The bag had not been left behind in Boston. It actually made it to Savannah, where it was “mishandled,” Ed was told.
It took the Colberts months to purchase replacement clothing and shoes, including some now out-of-season items like a bathing suit. In January, they were ready to file. The Colberts dug out the email sent previously to them about filing a claim, clicked on the link, and followed the instructions.
“We did not enjoy our ‘stressed out’ trip,” Ed wrote as part of the claim. “My wife and I are both 74 years old and both have big mobility problems and we had to go through this issue.”
Ed is a retired electrician, and Kathleen is a retired teacher’s aide. They are grandparents living on Social Security, savings, and modest pensions.
In their claim they sought compensation not just for the cost of the items they replaced ($1,133), but $1,931 for their ruined vacation, and $800 for the 16 hours they say they spent pursuing a claim. Attached to their claim were 12 pages of receipts.
JetBlue immediately acknowledged the claim and said it would review it within 7 business days.
But JetBlue treated their claim, not for lost luggage, but for a delayed or canceled flight, and summarily denied compensation. (The flight was on time.) The Colberts pointed out the misunderstanding and politely asked the airline “re-read our reimbursement request.”
JetBlue then informed the Colberts that they had reached the wrong department and they should start over.
“Please accept our sincere apology for the inconvenience and misinformation you experienced,” the airline wrote.
Again, very odd. The Colberts had followed JetBlue’s own lost luggage instructions.
The Colberts say they asked JetBlue to forward their claim “to the appropriate party” or provide them with the correct contact information, but got no response.
It gets worse. In March, Ed called the baggage department. He said the notes he kept during the call show he was on hold for 59 minutes before a JetBlue representative answered. But the rep told Ed she couldn’t help because she couldn’t find his claim in their system, Ed said.
Ed insisted it was there and eventually the rep said she found it. But then she said she couldn’t help because the claim had already been sent to another department, Ed said.
“She told me I need to talk to a specialist, whatever that meant,” he said. And then his call was transferred to voicemail.
Ed was on the phone for 1 hour and 13 minutes, according to his notes, but had accomplished nothing.
In the next two months, Ed had two spinal surgeries. In August, he called JetBlue again, this time on hold for 32 minutes and 35 seconds. The employee who answered asked for a particular kind of claim number (four letters followed by nine numbers).
“I told her I didn’t have one and she said she couldn’t talk to me,” he said.
Persistent as ever, Ed called again that same day, this time getting someone who said she would establish a claim number for him. When the promised email arrived, it inexplicably contained two claim numbers, one in the subject line and another in the body of the email. Huh?
A JetBlue representative then called and said the way the Colberts had submitted their claim was all wrong. Instead of buying replacement items and submitting receipts for reimbursement, they needed to itemize everything that was in the bag, along with dates of purchase and the price they paid — plus receipts or credit card statements for their long-ago purchases.
JetBlue apparently planned to depreciate any claim they made based on how long ago they had purchased the lost items.
It was at this point Ed enlisted my help. In a detailed email with attachments, I wrote, “It seems JetBlue has put this couple through the wringer.”
I got no response for days and then tried calling a number set up for inquiries from the news media. But each time I tried, my call was cut off. I sent another email and finally JetBlue responded that it was in touch with the Colberts.
As of Sept. 5, JetBlue was lavishing attention on the Colberts. But the airline again changed its requirement for reimbursement. Forget about itemizing the lost clothing, shoes, and other things, a representative told Ed. Just send us the same package of receipts for the replacement items you sent back in January.
Ed did as instructed. JetBlue then made a settlement offer of $977, which the Colberts immediately rejected. JetBlue next offered $2,258, still about $1,600 less than their total claim. As of last week, the Colberts were considering that offer.