Our luggage was lost on a recent vacation to Costa Rica.  If you think this is unusual, think again.  According to Barbara S. Peterson on the Conde Nast Traveler 26 million suitcases go missing on international flights and an amazing 1 million suitcases are never found.  In the U.S. more than188, 254 reports of missing baggage were filled in January 2013 alone so consider this blog a cautionary tale.

My husband and I arrived in San Jose close to midnight with two backpacks filled with what we considered our valuables,: reading materials for the long plane ride,  my holiday jewelry, our cameras, binoculars, blackberry, hoodie, documents, medication and vitamins.  We didn’t take our toiletry bags (so no toothbrushes and soap) which was foolish, because nothing was open that late at night.  The owner of our hotel gave us a small traveling toothbrush and toothpaste (actually she charged us $4.) and a bar of soap (free).

The next morning, the hotel owner called TACA for us (she was fluent in Spanish) and we were told that our bags had been found and to come to the airport to pick them up.  We were relieved and drove our rental car back to the airport, a fair drive, spoke to a TACA rep who told us that they had made a mistake.  Bags had come in, but they weren’t ours.  She advised that we wait until the next flight came in and suggested that our bags might be on that flight or she said we could go onto our hotel and our bags would be delivered to us.  We decided to wait at the airport and hope that the bags would come in.  By late afternoon, after checking the baggage department several times, we gave the rep the address and phone number of our hotel in Manuel Antonio.

Before we left, we asked if we would receive compensation and she assured us that we would.  Each of us would be given $25. a day, a shockingly small amount, and the rep told us to keep our receipts for any clothing purchases, toiletries etc. we had to make.

It was evening of the second day, still dressed in long pants and wearing the same sweaty clothes, we passed through the tourist town of Jaco where we began purchasing some beach clothes and basic toiletries.  My husband who is easier to fit managed to buy  flip-flops, shorts and a top.  I shopped for several hours but I was unable to find anything to fit me.  I was hot and tired and frustrated.  I was already mourning all my favourite vacation clothes that could indeed be lost.

Once I passed through the town of Quepos I purchased a swim suit but by then it was so late and we were exhausted that we decided to return the following morning once again so I could change from my winter clothes.

I run every morning but I couldn’t find any shorts to fit me.  In desperation, I bought another swim suit to wear as a running outfit.   I certainly didn’t need another swim suit because I had 3 swimsuits in my suitcase.

Our bags were delivered to our hotel sometime in the afternoon of day three.  I didn’t really feel relaxed until the next morning once we got back our stuff. Since Manuel Antonio was several hours drive from the San Jose airport, we couldn’t face another trip back to the airport.  We decided to wait until we went to the Liberia airport on our trip home to speak to a TACA rep about compensation.  We were told to contact TACA on the website.

Below is the email I sent to TACA.

“My husband, Michael Sather’s luggage and mine were delayed for 3 days and we wish to make a claim for compensation. We have saved our receipts and were given a paper from the baggage department. What is the easiest way to apply for compansation? Our etiqeta is UA228449. Our agents name was Carlos Saenf. We were also given the number 51509.”

Not only were we told in person that TACA provided compensation for lost luggage, but this quote was on the TACA website.

“According to Any traveler who is not a resident in the destination country and whose free baggage allowance did not arrive on the same day of travel, shall be entitled to compensation for basic necessities. Compensation for delayed luggage receipts must not include alcoholic beverages, high-end items or payments in luxury restaurants.”

This sounded promising until we received this response from TACA. “Dear Annette,

It is a pleasure to greet you.
We verified the report SJOTA51509 under the name of Annette LeBox; we would like to explain that this type of reimburse, only can be provided by our airline 2 or 3 days after of the inconvenient and for basic necessities. As you can visualize in the following link:

In this case, let us inform you that the compensation can be analyze it airport (we not guarantee anything) if you are visiting Costa Rica; in other hand, if you already come back to your home, it is not possible provide the compensation requested due to you are in your country home.

 Thank you for using our service.
 If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

Josseline Martínez
e-Desk Representative • edesk@taca.com

My email to TACA:
Dear TACA representative, It is my pleasure to inform you that I will be informing the world on my blog that TACA does not keep its promises to reimburse their customers if TACA has lost luggage for 3 days, even though your representatives at the airport made that promise.  My website is www.annettelebox.com.  Stay tuned for my next blog for a full account of TACA’s refusal to compensate for ruining the first 3 days of our holidays. Sincerely, Annette LeBox

TACA’s response:

Dear Annette,

It is a pleasure to greet you.  In accordance to your inquiry, we do apologize for all the inconvenient you had with the baggage. Regarding this case, we would like to explain that, we recommend to put your claim at the official Airport Baggage office to analyze your case, not exceeding the 21 days after completed the trip. Also, please consider that, if your baggage were not part of the free luggage allowances, they travel stand by.

We understand this type of delays can affect your trip, however, we cordially explain that, once you chose to fly with us, our objective is give you the best experience as a customer.

Due to the situation you had, and the case that you cannot give your claim at airport, in order to evaluate the situation for the basic necessities you acquired during the delay, we kindly invite you to fill the form of our Customer Service, in the next link; take in consideration that, your opinion is helpful in order to improve our service and avoid unsatisfied travels in the future: http://res.taca.com/et/eng/cus/fdb/fdbconsug.asp?id=54

Besides, we kindly invite you to verify the next information when putting a baggage claim, these restrictions will apply when evaluating your case: http://www.taca.com/eng/syi/bag/bageqdemorado.asp?id=14

We do appreciate your comprehension. Thank you for using our service. Kind regards, Esmeralda Valle

TACA’s failure to offer compensation violates the Montreal Conventions that stipulates TACA is legally bound to offer compensation for lost luggage.  According to this convention, a customer has 21 days after their holiday to apply.  Since I’d already emailed TACA all the information, I can only conclude that TACA is hoping that I will give up on my requests to be treated fairly as a customer.  In light of TACA’s refusal to do the right thing, I will avoid traveling on this carrier on future trips to Costa Rica.