British Airways Leaves Luggage To Rot Outside Heathrow

I was flying [British Airways] from Amsterdam to London Heathrow to Denver on July 28th. When I landed I waited by the luggage carousel for my bag, well as you can sure guess, it never turned up. I was told by BA, that they found my bag they apologized and assured me it would be delivered to my home the following day. Seven days later the luggage finally showed up.

When I finally did receive my luggage I pulled it inside my house and was overwhelmed by the smell emanating from my luggage. It smelled like BA had thrown my luggage in a swamp of poo for the past 7 days. I then opened up my luggage to discover that everything in my luggage was soaked with water and penetrated with mold and mildew. I attempter to wash the clothes but everything is ruined.


Doing some internet searching, I have discovered that BA places lost luggage at LHR airport outside while they try to figure out where to route it to their owners. Come on BA! You’re placing people’s luggage and personal belongings outside in London?!?! Hmm….ever dawn on anybody over there that it might rain in London???? Common sense is obviously not very common in BA land.

I contacted BA, and they will not even give me someone to speak too about this, they only direct me to an online email form. I filled out the form and have not heard word one from them in regards to how they are going to reimburse me for this loss of approximately $2,000.

I am a Silver card holder with BA (which means I fly a lot – probably 16 transatlantic business class trips per year) and usually have no problems. If I am a passenger that spends thousand and thousands with them each year, how are they treating everyone else?

BA wont even reply to pay for what they have damaged. I am not the only person this has happened to, there have been thousands of people whom they have destroyed their luggage, and have lost approximately 20,000 bags in the past 4 weeks.

Anyway – beware if you are flying on BA into London. Might want to use FedEx for your bags instead.

Our reader isn’t kidding. Check out this Wall Street Journal article confirming much of the same. According to it, BA has mishandled 28 bags per 1,000 passengers in this year’s second quarter, which is twice the worst US major airline, US Airways. In the first half of this year, BA lost bags for more than half a million travelers this year. Even Regis Philbin isn’t immune. They lost two of his wife’s suitcases and returned one sopping wet, with her favorite Armani dress inside, ruined.

Given the overload, and the concomitant surge of baggage related complaints BA must be fielding, there’s no wonder they don’t care a whit about our reader’s complaint. if he paid by credit card, perhaps he can seek some restitution through his credit card company? If so, he would be well advised to check out section 15 of British Airway’s contract of carriage to know how much of a leg he has to stand on.

For everyone else, the WSJ says things aren’t going to get better for BA at Heathrow until March 2008, when BA moves into a new terminal. Until then:

  • Avoid UK connections
  • Give at least 2 hours between BA connections so your bags have enough time
  • Consider shipping important items
  • In case the tags get ripped off, put contact info inside your luggage
  • Don’t put anything you can’t stand to lose inside your checked baggage

Welcome to London: Your Luggage Is Missing [Wall Street Journal]
So here’s a question you probably dont see too often! [Flyertalk]
British Airways Lost Luggage [Trip Advisor]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ElizabethD says:

    Horrible story.

    Just a thought that sometimes dry-cleaning can salvage moldy clothing; may be worth a try for special stuff. (It also works for smoke-saturated clothing, for instance after a house fire.)

  2. ncboxer says:

    Maybe if you know your flying through London with BA, you should put all your stuff in waterproof bags inside your suitcase just in case.

  3. Onouris says:

    Yes that’s right. Slate the whole of the UK.

    Are you having a laugh? Shall we start slating the whole of America because of the tens of thousands of things that go wrong there every day?

  4. K-Bo says:

    @ElizabethD: I worked for a dry cleaner for 7 years, and if anything even remotely dirty came in, it was washed just like you would at home. Dry cleaning removes oil from your skin, that’s about it.

  5. Islingtonian says:

    @Onouris: no, but they’re saying if you have to connect a flight, it’s probably better not to do it at heathrow. i’ve heard this from other frequent flyers as well. paris, amsterdam and frankfurt are viable options.

    i fly to london a few times a year and i’ve always been hesitant to fly BA because of their poor luggage record at heathrow. do you remember those piles of luggage left outside heathrow last christmas? or the strike back in the summer of 2005? and i saw that coverage in the british press, mind you.

    granted, i try and fly to gatwick whenever possible. heathrow is just an unecessary headache.

  6. not_seth_brundle says:

    Weird, I don’t see “don’t check any bags” on your list.

  7. ChrisC1234 says:

    Damn… I thought US airlines were bad.

  8. GuruSteve says:

    Clearly, one needs to purchase luggage that is “swamp of poo ” resistant.

  9. QuirkyRachel says:

    The Wall Street Journal just had an article on British Air and its luggage issues. Apparently this is pretty common. when my family flew British Air last week, they lost my Dad’s suitcase on the way there, and lost all 4, yes *all four* of the checked bags.

  10. Pelagius says:

    Do the Brits have an equivalent of small claims court?

  11. number9ine says:

    a. lot. “allot” is what one does when dedicating materials or resources.

    I hate to be the grammar police, but oy.

  12. STrRedWolf says:

    I think getting a “SpaceBag” which is a plastic zip-lock bag with a valve for deflating the garments would help here. Even without deflating it, the bag would of helped keep the water out and thus instead of being out 1000+ UK Pounds you only would need to replace a 100 quid travel case.

    It also helps when you have a costume and one part of it won’t fit into any travel luggage until you deflate it in a “Jumbo SpaceBag”.

    $14 US at any Bed Bath and Beyond, and they’re online at I believe.

  13. ncboxer says:

    @STrRedWolf: Space bags are utter crap. I have had numerous space bags (bought some years after the first ones after they said they were new and improved), and they just don’t work well over time. They lose their seal all the time. At most they are good for having a “bag” to put stuff in that you can see through. A clear garbage bag that you tie yourself would work better.

  14. rrapynot says:

    BA used to be the best in the business. Competition is causing cost cutting and now it looks like standards are slipping.

  15. rrapynot says:


    Yes. It’s called “Small Claims Court”

  16. stubblyhead says:

    @ncboxer: Something else to think about–if you put your stuff inside plastic bags of any nature, do you really think the TSA or security clowns of whatever country you happen to be in are going to make sure that your stuff is sealed up again after they’re done pilfering your stuff?

  17. Snakeophelia says:

    @ncboxer – That gets me thinking. We have to allow the TSA to get into our suitcase (special or no locks), but do we have to allow them to get into anything inside our suitcase? Wouldn’t it be possible to design a flexible lockable mini case that goes inside your suitcase and can’t be opened? That doesn’t stop them from stealing the whole thing and it would make your luggage heavier, but it seems like you could put your nice clothes in giant Ziploc bags and seal them in something else within your suitcase, and that protects them against water and rifling.

  18. Lisastwin says:

    When BA lost my bags, damaged them, and didn’t return them to me for 10 weeks, I was actually able to wring a small cash amount out of them, enough to cover all the replacement clothes I bought and pick up a comparable new suitcase.

    The only catch is that it took a lot of persistence and patience.

    If you are in the US, there is a separate US office for baggage claims.

    Their voice number is 1-800-828-8144,
    The fax number is 1 347-418-4395
    The postal address is
    British Airways Baggage Claims
    P.O. Box 690098
    East Elmhurst, N.Y. 11369-0098

    I just called the voice number a couple of times, then faxed my complaint, then wrote them a couple of letters. Then when I was emailed a customer service survey, I rehashed the whole story and gave them crappy marks on the survey.

    They say on the BA website to wait 6-8 weeks for resolution and that is unfortunately the case. I had pretty much decided all that effort was pointless (except for the cathartic release of going over the story again) when they finally called and said they were putting a check in the mail.

    I didn’t have receipts for most of the stuff I lost, I wasn’t able to show the damage to a BA agent (as they ask you to) since they FedExed the bag to me and the closest BA counter is at an airport 3-4 hours from me, AND I didn’t have a Frequent Flyer number, much less elite status. I just let them know exactly what I expected in compensation, stuck to my story, and badgered them via every medium I could find.

    BA’s customer service for lost baggage is terrible due to the long response time and the opacity of the system. I was astounded when the check actually arrived but if it worked for me, I’m sure it would work for someone with better status and the Consumerist ninja skills I didn’t have at the time. Good luck!

  19. not_seth_brundle says:

    @Lisastwin: Nice post.

  20. mkguitar says:

    My bags went missing July 2nd, finally delivered July 18th wet, moldy contents, rusted hardware just a friggin’ mess.

    I have filed a claim and wait…for a response.

    Getting ANY response from BA is difficult.

    Interesting facts:

    Flight at 16:35 ( scheduled, left 90 minutes late!!!)
    BA would NOT allow us to check in before 14:00, we were there at 12:45.
    So there was plenty of time, there could have been more.

    Flight from LHR to Oslo-
    On arrival dozens of passengers left with out bags ( incl. 6 of our group)- there were dozens of bags for another destination placed on our flight- that seems to be where the error happened.- our bags were still in London. The claim process causes some of us to miss our connections, some had to stay overnight in Oslo.

    BA’s approach was to direct all enquiries to Oslo’s contacted handler, ServisAir. Who do not have full access to the tracing system.

    BA’s UK lines on auto- hang up…play a greeting about how busy they are, then disconnects.( that’s about $2 a try) Calling Oslo usually has us on hold for about 25 minutes, then a disconnect…that’s good for about $15.

    Get ahold of someone at BA in the US, I am now in Stockholm…they say it could be 3 weeks.

    Once we figure out the CEO’s email:

    We start sending daily emails updating him on his companies lack of response or action.

    I get a response from an assistant on the 10th saying that my bags had been delivered ( they hadn’t) and saying so sorry. She included a dead return address…

    We continue updating Willie.

    On the 18th my bags are delivered, and are a mess.

    I write Willie and another assistant apologises and asks me to submit my claim directly to her. Which I have.

    We’ll see how they do.


    Do not fly BA!

    Stay away from Heathrow. Try Gatwick or Stansted.

    If flying on to Europe, look for flights thru Amsterdam or Frankfurt…or if flying from the US west coast. connect on the east coast to a direct flight to your final destination.

    BA is obviously shorting themselves, and if settled the thousands of claims will cost much more than the revenue generated by each unhappy customer.


  21. crnk says:

    First, isn’t a carrier required to hold insurance for a limited value of your baggage? Aren’t they required to deal with claims as required? There should be no issue here.
    As for the armani dress that was cited as destroyed…I have a few words.
    1. we know the risks inherent with traveling and that things can be damaged. Under murphy’s law, therefore they will.
    2. we know that it is much harder to lose a bag when it is physically with you than when you give it to someone else.
    3. people should think about having a little less vanity. I’d venture to say that nobody in the world needs an armani suit/dress/whatever….

    I wish sometimes people would just wake up to the fact that nobody cares that you wear armani, fly dozens of business class trips a year, or that you can’t figure out a moldy suitcase smells like mold (so you instead label it as sitting in a “swamp of poo”).

  22. Onouris says:


    Well no I think ‘avoid UK connetions’ doesn’t mean just Heathrow.

    Also, @Quirkyrachel, it’s British Airways.

    Yeah, compensation should be given, but any American company would no doubt completely ignore claims that came from anyone from the UK too. US law means nothing to them.

  23. Tallanvor says:

    Just about all of BA’s baggage problems, near as I can tell, revolve around Heathrow, and from what I’ve heard, many of the problems are due to staff cuts and them taking staff off of rotation to train them for when T5 opens next year. Which is too bad, because BA used to have a great reputation.

    I prefer to fly out of Heathrow, just not with BA, because it’s much more convenient for me. Connecting at Heathrow can be a nightmare these days though, from what I hear. –BAA (no relation to BA, mind you), is more interested in getting you to buy stuff than in keeping lines short and moving people through security.

    What’s really fun is when you get to fly into Gatwick and transfer to Heathrow.

  24. Hexum2600 says:

    @crnk = a “swamp of poo”

    Whatever you need to say ass clown to make yourself feel better… about being you.

  25. astrochimp says:

    @Hexum2600: “Whatever you need to say ass clown to make yourself feel better… about being you.”

    Take your adolescent rage and shove it in a swamp of poo.

  26. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    at least you got your luggage… united sucks ass with that. in fact, every time i’ve flown with united, i’ve had some sort of bad experience… united is just all around horrible. they’re just fucks.

    i have to fly quite a bit because of a combination of work and family.. and united just seems to give me the worst time. i’ve really just started to avoid united at all costs.

  27. darkclawsofchaos says:

    traveling light is a good idea, only pack good clothes if you need them, otherwise, if it is just a vacation, just wear cheap clothes, who cares who judges you in a foreign country, as Americans, we are pretty unpopular to Europeans any way so no point in dressing nicely if you don’t have too

  28. @crnk: So, because you don’t approve of someone’s choice in clothing, they don’t have the right to expect a company they’re paying good money to to transport it, not to ruin it and refuse to pay them back? Only clothes that you like, or that you think are worth the money, should be covered by customer service contracts?

    Geez, get over yourself!

  29. brutusln says:

    “Swamp of Poo” This is the most hilarious rant on lost luggage I have ever read. What makes it so funny is that the article is professionally written in its entirety except for this carefully placed expression “swamp of poo,” giving it enormous credibility, and vivid imagery.

  30. mkguitar says:

    Regarding any comments on clothing or contents of luggage:

    A passenger should expect that their property is properly handled. That is the intent of the Montreal Convention to which BA is a signatory.

    And many people traveling for work are REQUIRED to have suitable clothing. If you don’t like Armani or whatever, don’t wear it!


  31. mkguitar says:

    Today a class action has been filed in Seattle against BA alleging that 550,000 bags have been lost this year, and that BA’s neglect contravenes the Montreal Convention…making BA liable for claims above the limitations.

    The suit offers some insight into BA’s business practices and partly explains why BA handled bags were found in a Houston dumpster some months ago. They had been sent by BA to a broker to resell the contents at auction, the bags were cut open- the contents removed and the bags dumped behind a mall in a dumpster.