Airline reimburses passenger only 21% of cost for 'destroyed’ designer suitcase

Michelle Blumenau’s Cellini bag after it went through the hands of FlySafair. Picture: Supplied

Michelle Blumenau’s Cellini bag after it went through the hands of FlySafair. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 26, 2024


Most travellers tend to skip the part about baggage insurance when booking domestic flights, however, traveller Michelle K Blumenau urged fellow travellers not to skip this stage, especially when flying with FlySafair.

According to Blumenau, she bought a brand new suitcase, valued at R4 295 at Cellini Sandton, and was dismayed the following day when she landed in Cape Town and found the bag destroyed after travelling with FlySafair.

“It was the first bag to come off the carousel. It looked like it had exploded. I had not owned the new bag for 24 hours! The handle no longer worked, the metal inner lining was mangled and the zips were ripped. It was so badly damaged it could not be repaired.

“The person at the counter at Cape Town airport was shocked at the condition of the bag and remarked, ‘I have never seen anything like this!’.

“This is not a matter of a broken wheel or a strap coming loose, my suitcase was destroyed,” said Blumenau.

Blumenau revealed that following the discovery, she submitted the claim at airport arrivals and received a letter from FlySafair stating that it accepted no responsibility on the same day.

“When handing their luggage over at check-in, travellers may believe that if anything happens to their luggage, FlySafair will take responsibility. The airline does not,” said Blumenau.

She revealed the airline said: “We regret to inform you that your claim has been declined concerning our T's & C's. We will not be proceeding any further with the claim.”

Blumenau said that following this, she then demanded the airline reconsider and bought another R4 000 suitcase in Cape Town in order to fly home.

“Passengers should be aware that the FlySafair terms and conditions state: ‘You accept and agree that the processing of your luggage is managed by several parties other than FlySafair, and that while we will utilise all care, diligence and skill at our disposal to look after your items we can only accept a limited liability for any losses or damages’,” highlighted Blumenau.

She also said that FlySafair states that it will not be liable for damage to passengers or any checked-in luggage unless such damage is caused by its negligence and such passenger or such luggage was within its control or custody.

The domestic traveller revealed that despite the bag being in their custody, FlySafair only agreed to compensate her R900 for a R4000 case.

“I suggest you fly another airline or if you are flying with FlySafair make sure you have baggage insurance,” Blumenau advises.

Responding to Blumenau’s case, FlySafair said: “FlySafair is aware of the press release entitled ‘Travellers beware: FlySafair destroys luggage and evades responsibility, released to the media by Ms Blumenau.

“FlySafair has not approved the information contained in this media release and reserves the right to pursue slander claims.

“As a business, FlySafair can only accept liability for the consequences of risks that it can manage. While we acknowledge the fact that Ms Blumenau’s luggage was damaged, the luggage management system is largely handled by parties outside of the employ of FlySafair or any other airline.

“As an airline, we are responsible for the collection of customer bags only. After collection, bags are surrendered to the airport system, where they are screened and sorted by parties employed and/or contracted by a separate entity with no association to FlySafair.

“The management and maintenance of this automated baggage sortation system is the responsibility of this third party. Unfortunately, incidents can occur as luggage moves through these processes, including both human and mechanical processes.”

The statement continued: “As an airline, we have no way of managing the maintenance of these systems to ensure people’s property is not damaged. This is the case across all airlines.

“Due to airlines’ inability to protect customers' luggage throughout the entire process, it is unfair to expect airlines to take full liability in cases where damage has occurred. Rather, in accordance with IATA resolutions, airlines have adopted a process of limited liability.

“This was the stance taken by FlySafair in this case. FlySafair accepted limited liability and has offered compensation of R900, accordingly.

“This incident and the breakdown of the luggage sortation system, which occurred shortly before Christmas, speak to larger concerns around the maintenance of the infrastructure within which airlines operate. However, this is a topic to which ACSA is better positioned to speak.”