Vueling Airlines designs complex lost baggage claim processes to increase profits

TLDR: Vueling forces passengers to save paper “PIR Claim Receipts” despite Vueling possessing the the information necessary to locate a lost bag within their computer database systems. I believe this is done purposefully to increase profits so lost baggage claims don’t have to be paid out when customers lose access to the receipt or do not have the opportunity to file a claim due to time constraints.

Losing your checked-in baggage is probably every traveller’s nightmare — especially if you have expensive items (suit, shoes, watches, cologne) that are needed for your function (wedding, business meetings etc.).

I took a flight from Barcelona to Oakland, with an overnight stop over in Gatwick. I waited for my bag in Gatwick at the carousel after landing from Barcelona just in case it hadn’t been transferred to my British Airways flight from Gatwick to Oakland (It was an over night layover — so better safe than sorry right?). I didn’t see my bag in the carousel after 45 minutes so I went to the Vueling desk. The man told me that the bag had already been sent to British Airways since I had booked all of the tickets through the same vendor (sigh of relief)… and that I had nothing to worry about. It would show up at my destination airport. Yay!

The next morning, I arrive to board my flight after the overnight layover in Gatwick. I show up to double check that the luggage was sent to British Airways and they informed me no such baggage has arrived from Vueling. I will have to file a claim with Vueling. That sucks. But my flight was already boarding…!

As soon as I land in Oakland I send off and email stating my situation and received the following response:

Customer care is a fundamental goal for us and it is essential for us to consider each case individually in order to handle it correctly.
In this sense, the regulations establish that it is obligatory to report any irregularity that has occurred with the baggage before leaving the baggage reclaim area in the destination airport, and to obtain the Property irregularity Report — PIR -, which is the document necessary for processing any later claim.
The PIR includes the file reference number, 5 letters and 5 numbers. Please send this number to us, so that we can examine and deal with your claim as rapidly as possible.

Obviously I would never have filed a “Property irregularity Report” because I was told by the man at the desk that my bag had been sent to British Airways.

Vueling does not operate a desk at the reclaim area in Oakland so I decided that I would call the Vueling help line once I got back home. They stated that I needed to have filed the claim while I was at Gatwick and provide them this file reference number in order for them to help me.

I told them there was no way I could have made this claim in the baggage area of Gatwick because I was informed that the bag had already been sent to British Airways. Why would I file this claim and have this number if Vueling itself had told me my luggage was sent to British Airways? It doesn’t make any sense.

I asked them if they could look up my baggage information without this number and was told that there is nothing they could do. I know that they could enter my name and flight number into their database system and easily recover any information related to my particular baggage tag. They refused to do this. The only explanation for this refusal is that they want to make the system hard so that passengers are not compensated for lost baggage claims.

Airlines want you to keep and manage small slips of papers with numbers on them, despite the fact that they have huge databases and complex automation systems that could easily look up all of this information in milliseconds. I work as a programmer and I know that these systems contain information relating every piece of baggage to every passenger to every flight. The only reason they want to require you to hold on to these numbers is because you might lose them. And when you lose these slips of paper they can point the finger at you (instead of themselves) so that they don’t have to pay you your fair claim. This increases the profits of the airline. It’s not rocket science. This practice is common throughout many many industries: Loads of bureaucracy, keeping track of numbers and small slips of paper that may or may not prove to be meaningful in the future… all so that when you lose them “it’s your fault, not the multinational corporations”

I had almost $2,000 worth of clothing and personal affects in that bag that are now lost. Thanks a lot Vueling :(

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