Airline Loses Man’s Bag Twice; Sends Him Car Part Instead


We regularly assist with air passengers’ baggage complaints. This is the first time, however, we have been asked to help someone whose airline lost their luggage more than once.

“They lost the bag twice,” said Michael Petriano of San Francisco. Yes, twice.

Earlier this year, Petriano embarked on a trans-Atlantic jaunt that took him from SFO to Iceland, Sweden, Holland, and then back to SFO via Iceland and Newark, New Jersey.

The bag he checked arrived everywhere in Europe. But it was missing when his WOW Air flight landed in Newark.

“These things happen,” he said.

They do. Bags are mishandled more than 4,600 times a day, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So, Petriano immediately filed a report with WOW Air. Five days later, WOW headquarters, in Iceland, sent him an email informing him his duffel bag was located, and it would be sent to him via FedEx.

“I was elated,” he said. “This is perfect. This is what I wanted.”

But then, a large oblong box arrived at his doorstep.

“This is about seven feet long. It’s bigger than my body,” Petriano explained. “There’s just no way this can be luggage in any way.”

The label indicated the long, skinny box had shipped from WOW Air at Newark airport.

“Only, it’s not my luggage,” Petriano said. “It’s a gigantic car part from Toyota Motors.”

Petriano contacted WOW Air and discovered that after it found his lost luggage in Newark it lost it again.

“This is when everything sort of snowballs out of control,” he said.

So, Pertiano returned the box and kept on WOW Air about his bag’s whereabouts. He says he emailed every two or three days but received no response. He says he kept a tally of the days WOW Air was silent – and stopped counting at 50.

“Can someone just act a little human toward me?” he asked. “A little bit?”

Finally, he sent us his photos and asked for help. We wanted to know whether Petriano would be compensated and how WOW Air could confuse a seven-foot-long car part for a small piece of luggage.

In a statement, a spokesperson said, “Somehow there was a mix-up. ... His bag got the same tracking number as the car part he received.”

Petriano's bag was then declared officially missing. WOW Air offered him $1,531.20, the amount payable under the Montreal Convention, an international agreement that governs lost luggage claims.

As for why it took WOW Air more than 90 days to pay, the spokesperson said, “We have for some time now tried to connect with our handling agents and contacts at FedEx about this matter with limited success, which explains the delay of this matter’s resolution."

Now that Petriano's ordeal is over, he’s sharing a piece of advice with fellow travelers: persistence.

“Be ruthless, and don’t stop fighting for what you deserve,” he said. “Because I truly believe they just hope you’ll drop off and stop.”