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Luggage lost ahead of pre-clearance inspection - bizarre experience

Luggage lost ahead of pre-clearance inspection - bizarre experience

Old Nov 9, 20, 11:43 am
  #1  
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Luggage lost ahead of pre-clearance inspection - bizarre experience

Not sure whether this belongs in the AA or AY forum, or elsewhere, but here’s some travel hell:

Late 2019, I was flying YUL-JFK-HEL-SIN on the AY ex-Canada J fare.

Checked in 3 hours early at YUL for the feeder, and was (for no apparent reason) flagged for secondary inspection by the global entry passport control agent.
But by this point, AA had already lost my luggage.

The inspection of course could not take place until my luggage was found. Also, border control did not allow me to leave the holding pen to call AA or talk to an agent on site. By the time the bags were located (several hours later), the feeder was long gone.

The AAgents tried to rebook me on BA that night, but AY refused to allow this, stating that the ticket would be cancelled for no refund as I had been marked as a no-show. AY customer service was absolutely impossible to work with, and meanwhile, AA was unable to communicate the reason I had missed the flight. (It did not help that AY claimed to not be able to read the notes in the reservation.)

AY eventually said that AA would have to reissue the outbound on their own stock, in order for the return to be protected. AA refused, stating that the baggage issue was caused “by the airport, and is not our responsibility.” (I am skeptical of this, as I thought that baggage issues lie with the airline.) They did rebook me on the feeder for the next day, but no further.

The OW desk (I was PLAT at the time) was also unable to get through to AY also, at least in the time I spent on the line with them.

The next day, and after double-digit hours on the phone and being on first-name basis with every AAgent at YUL, I boarded the feeder, still not sure what to expect at JFK. Mysteriously, BPs printed just as they were supposed to – this time on blueberry backdrop.

A year later, and I still have not been able to solve the mystery of how I was rebooked. Was I saved by some AY version of the Flat Tire Rule? It’s also possible it was done in error by one of the AY agents.

AA won’t talk to me about this – when I write them, I just get autoreplies (“TSA lines can be long..” etc). They also “politely declined” to cover the hotel the night I was stranded at YUL. I was at least pleased that the miles for JFK-HEL-SIN ended up double posting, so I figure we can call it even.

So I’m wondering, is there any precedence for this? Has this happened to any of you? I haven’t been able to find anything on what the procedure should be if luggage is lost ahead of a pre-clearance inspection.

There are of course many additional infuriating details I had to leave out for the sake of readability.
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Old Nov 10, 20, 9:19 pm
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AA is always quick to remind you that customs and immigration delays aren’t their problem. I doubt you’ll get anywhere with this.

Can you claim the hotel on travel insurance via a credit card?
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Old Nov 10, 20, 9:21 pm
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Seems like an odd setup, to try to screen passengers for entry to the US *after* they’ve already checked their bags.
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Old Nov 10, 20, 10:25 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
Seems like an odd setup, to try to screen passengers for entry to the US *after* they’ve already checked their bags.
I've never used pre-check in Canada as a point of origin, only as a connection, but on a transit, you wait near transit security until your bags come up on a video screen and identify them and then proceed to US immigration. I suppose if the officer wants to do an inspection then they order it at that point. Sounds as if the process must be similar for passengers originating at the pre-check airport from the account of the OP.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 7:23 am
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Originally Posted by dvs7310 View Post
Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
Seems like an odd setup, to try to screen passengers for entry to the US *after* they’ve already checked their bags.
I've never used pre-check in Canada as a point of origin, only as a connection, but on a transit, you wait near transit security until your bags come up on a video screen and identify them and then proceed to US immigration. I suppose if the officer wants to do an inspection then they order it at that point. Sounds as if the process must be similar for passengers originating at the pre-check airport from the account of the OP.
Preclearance is done after checking your bags the same way at YUL and YYZ (and I assume the other 7 preclearance Canadian airports) and in both airports you are screened for entry to the US after checking your bags (or maybe your bags have already been checked through if coming from a connecting flight). I assume it is done this way so the CBSA and the US CBP can maintain one preclearance location and one set of support processes/procedures for handling all the travelers going to the US.

The last time I checked my bags at a preclearance airport for direct entry to the US was in July 2019 at YYZ. It was a very smooth process. I do not remember CBP looking at my luggage on a monitor. But I am a GE member and that may change the procedure for baggage screening.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 7:48 am
  #6  
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Air carriers, including AA and AY are set up to handle post-travel issues as complaints which are then dealt with through a customer service gesture, reimbursement or compensation. There is really no "discussion" to be had and, if there ever was, the details of it are likely long lost or certainly not in any active session.

Indeed OP's checked bag would have physically gone through a unified system at YUL and that is all part of CSBA and CBP for pre-clearance. Highly unlikely that AA had anything to do with that unless it mistagged the bag (which OP would have seen when it was retrieved). As the operating carrier on the day of travel, it was down to AA, if anybody, to rebook. It apparently took the initial "legal" position that it did not cause the delay or no show and that it thus had no obligation to reroute.

My guess is that OP rightly pestered enough people that someone got through to someone sufficiently senior to override the system and either permit the rebooking at one or both carriers. Who did what likely is not easily traceable without a forensic audit and for all OP knows, whoever did it does not particularly want their actions to be subject to criticism.

Presuming that OP's local expenses were covered by travel insurance there is not much to be done here and likely nowhere to solidly pin the blame.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 7:53 am
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I have not pre-cleared at YUL, but many times at YYZ and, from memory, it seems particularly difficult to lose luggage in that arrangement. I'm curious how exactly this happened. Does anyone have any photos of the setup?
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Old Nov 11, 20, 10:55 am
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Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
Seems like an odd setup, to try to screen passengers for entry to the US *after* they’ve already checked their bags.
It is done this way for a few reasons, namely so that bags can be properly screened/x-rayed before they enter US customs area. Anything illegal/restricted is noted and the bag flagged until the person steps in front of a agent, where questioning begins before being taken for a secondary screening.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 11:33 am
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Presumably they go in a special area that’s easier to pull them pre-flight, and AA somehow didn’t do it this time.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
Presumably they go in a special area that’s easier to pull them pre-flight, and AA somehow didn’t do it this time.
I'm not so sure that it is AA which handles those bags at that stage, e.g. CBSA to Pre-Clearance. As between CBSA, CBP and whatever contractor they use to schlep bags onto and off various belts, who knows.
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Old Nov 11, 20, 2:13 pm
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OP, the answer is NO. You will never find out exactly what happened, because honestly it sounds like nobody knows exactly what happened. Assuming AA tagged your bags correctly (if you kept your bag tag receipts, you can verify this), then they somehow got lost in the airport luggage system. It is unfortunate, but things like this happen. It sounds like the AAgents worked hard to get you out that day, but AY was uncooperative.
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Old Nov 16, 20, 2:38 pm
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Wow, these are all really good points! Thank you!

Originally Posted by TravelerMSY View Post
AA is always quick to remind you that customs and immigration delays aren’t their problem. I doubt you’ll get anywhere with this.

Can you claim the hotel on travel insurance via a credit card?
I’ve had extraordinarily good luck over the years, but of course this was one of the few big trips I charged to the AMEX Platinum before they added trip delay reimbursement. I ended up writing it off as a business expense.
Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
I have not pre-cleared at YUL, but many times at YYZ and, from memory, it seems particularly difficult to lose luggage in that arrangement. I'm curious how exactly this happened. Does anyone have any photos of the setup?
Don’t know much about the setup, but here’s a thing:

The officer pulled up pictures of each of my two bags and asked me to confirm they were mine. One of them had a green checkmark in the upper left corner. But the other had a grey X instead. Not sure what that means. I’m GE fwiw.

Should have gone into more detail on how it happened: My bags were tagged correctly, but were loaded on the plane without being scanned. (Someone mentioned that they had been having trouble with the scanner…)

So when CBP called for them, they were not where the system thought they were, and nobody bothered to look on the plane, where they were “hiding” the whole time. Only until I “no-showed” did they check on the plane to pull the bags.
Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
My guess is that OP rightly pestered enough people that someone got through to someone sufficiently senior to override the system and either permit the rebooking at one or both carriers. Who did what likely is not easily traceable without a forensic audit and for all OP knows, whoever did it does not particularly want their actions to be subject to criticism.
There was certainly pestering! I could definitely see this, that one person may have been my secret savior here.

Originally Posted by formeraa View Post
OP, the answer is NO. You will never find out exactly what happened, because honestly it sounds like nobody knows exactly what happened. Assuming AA tagged your bags correctly (if you kept your bag tag receipts, you can verify this), then they somehow got lost in the airport luggage system. It is unfortunate, but things like this happen. It sounds like the AAgents worked hard to get you out that day, but AY was uncooperative.
I think this sums it. AY was hellacious. I hope to never run afoul of them again. I was really floored, because I had heard great things about their customer service, and figured a biz ticket with OW status would be better protected in the event of failures. In my experience, AA has always been great about fixing messes and protecting connections, so I’m somewhat surprised there too.

I sort of wonder if AY was hoping that AA would pay up (since they technically created the problem by losing track of the bags), and when they didn’t relented and rebooked my itinerary to avoid chargeback/legal action etc. Or perhaps AA did secretly pay after enough pestering and realizing they screwed up.

I’ve pretty much found peace with the fact I’ll probably never know what actually happened. But I definitely will be avoiding any itinerary that mixes AA and AY (or any airline and AY).

I also wonder if, had this happened at an AA hub and not an outstation, this would have all been tied up in a little bundle in a matter of minutes.
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Old Nov 20, 20, 9:43 pm
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Originally Posted by meechyathere View Post
I’ve pretty much found peace with the fact I’ll probably never know what actually happened.
Nearly a year later, you're just now coming to peace with not knowing what actually happened? I can only imagine the amount of effort and angst you've invested in this situation over the past year. Give it up and move on with life. As others have alluded to, once your immediate ticketing problem was resolved, it's unlikely that you'll ever find out exactly what happened and how it got fixed. Aside from a mild curiosity, I don't see how it much matters Assuming that all the carriers involved are happy with the resolution in terms of everyone getting paid, it's unlikely that any customer service inquiry is going to yield any answers. They're not going to take the trouble to try to figure out who did what a year ago when there's really no issue pending.
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Old Nov 20, 20, 10:48 pm
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Originally Posted by meechyathere View Post
Wow, these are all really good points! Thank you!


I’ve had extraordinarily good luck over the years, but of course this was one of the few big trips I charged to the AMEX Platinum before they added trip delay reimbursement. I ended up writing it off as a business expense.

Don’t know much about the setup, but here’s a thing:

The officer pulled up pictures of each of my two bags and asked me to confirm they were mine. One of them had a green checkmark in the upper left corner. But the other had a grey X instead. Not sure what that means. I’m GE fwiw.

Should have gone into more detail on how it happened: My bags were tagged correctly, but were loaded on the plane without being scanned. (Someone mentioned that they had been having trouble with the scanner…)

So when CBP called for them, they were not where the system thought they were, and nobody bothered to look on the plane, where they were “hiding” the whole time. Only until I “no-showed” did they check on the plane to pull the bags.

There was certainly pestering! I could definitely see this, that one person may have been my secret savior here.



I think this sums it. AY was hellacious. I hope to never run afoul of them again. I was really floored, because I had heard great things about their customer service, and figured a biz ticket with OW status would be better protected in the event of failures. In my experience, AA has always been great about fixing messes and protecting connections, so I’m somewhat surprised there too.

I sort of wonder if AY was hoping that AA would pay up (since they technically created the problem by losing track of the bags), and when they didn’t relented and rebooked my itinerary to avoid chargeback/legal action etc. Or perhaps AA did secretly pay after enough pestering and realizing they screwed up.

I’ve pretty much found peace with the fact I’ll probably never know what actually happened. But I definitely will be avoiding any itinerary that mixes AA and AY (or any airline and AY).

I also wonder if, had this happened at an AA hub and not an outstation, this would have all been tied up in a little bundle in a matter of minutes.
Are the AA staff in YUL outsourced? I don't really get why they didn't just make the changes and reissue the ticket themselves. They have control of the ticket on day of departure and AY is a JV partner so it is not that big of a deal. I think you just encountered some poorly trained staff.
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Old Nov 23, 20, 3:47 pm
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Originally Posted by dls25 View Post
Are the AA staff in YUL outsourced? I don't really get why they didn't just make the changes and reissue the ticket themselves. They have control of the ticket on day of departure and AY is a JV partner so it is not that big of a deal. I think you just encountered some poorly trained staff.
I don’t believe AA at YUL are outsourced. They are pretty well trained at IRROPS. The issue here is AA’s position is that it is not IRROPS as CBP is holding the passenger not AA YUL-JFK not operating on schedule. YUL loaded the bags before getting CBP clearance to do so.

JV may or may not apply depending on the fare. This sounds like a fare published only by AY.

If OP still have the boarding passes for the rebooked flights, it would show the ticket number. If the number starts with 001 then it meant AA rebooked on their own stock.
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