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Q: I recently flew from Iowa City to Providence, R.I., on Delta Air Lines. While we were on a stopover in Detroit, the luggage handlers apparently left my bag outside during a thunderstorm. The airline delayed and ultimately canceled my flight because of the storm.

When I retrieved my bag from the baggage claim carousel, it was soaking, and the pullup handle no longer worked. I contacted Delta three days later when my daughter came to visit to help with the details. Delta began to process my complaint. The airline provided instructions and the need for details like photos and receipts. I accommodated these requests.

Then, to my dismay, Delta abruptly informed me that since more than 24 hours had passed before I made the claim, it was thrown out. I’m 90 years old. I simply wanted help with the technology, and I was exhausted from the ordeal. No one at any time suggested I had to do this within 24 hours of my flight. Thank you for your help in the matter that has caused me much angst.

A: I’m sorry to hear about your luggage. Delta should have taken greater care of your luggage when you were traveling.

Delta is both right and wrong. It’s right in the sense that you had 24 hours to file a claim. That’s pretty standard for domestic flights. You have a week for most international flights. But Delta shouldn’t have led you to believe you had a valid claim, and it should have reviewed your circumstances before summarily dismissing your claim. Instead, Delta asked you for photos and documentation of your loss. Someone at Delta could have easily looked at the timeline and saved you all the paperwork.

You definitely missed your luggage claim deadline. But you know that saying, “Rules were meant to be broken”? Well, I know I may get myself into trouble for writing this, but Delta should have taken your age into account, not to mention that no one told you about the 24-hour deadline. Some passengers need extra assistance, and I believe Delta should have considered helping you despite the rules.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this again, you can always appeal to an executive at the airline. I list the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the customer service executives at Delta Air Lines on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site,

I contacted Delta on your behalf. The airline was under no obligation to help you, of course, but when it reviewed your claim, it decided to replace your damaged bag. That’s the right call.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog,, or e-mail him at