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Central Florida woman says her luggage was destroyed during Delta flight

Delta says they have apologized to customer, offered monetary reimbursement

ORLANDO, Fla. – It was the trip of a lifetime from Arianna Bartolotta and her friends: 10 days in beautiful Bali.

But Bartolotta said her dream vacation turned into a nightmare on the return flight home. The 23-year-old Orlando resident said toward the end of the trip she got sick, so she and her friends switched their flights in Singapore to arrive home a little sooner.

Bartolotta said they flew Delta Airlines to Detroit, and then on to Orlando. She says when they showed up at Orlando’s baggage claim, their bags were nowhere to be found.

“They weren’t there. They never made it,” Bartolotta said.

She said they filed a claim with Delta, and two days later their luggage showed up at her friend’s house wrapped in blue plastic to keep the shattered pieces contained. Bartolotta said her brand new hard-backed suitcase was in pieces, smashed as if someone or something had run over it.

“They left it on the door, wrapped in this plastic,” Bartolotta said. “And when she unwrapped it, everything was broken. And it’s just sad because I specifically bought it so this wouldn’t end up happening.”

Bartolotta said inside the luggage were handmade presents she had bought for her family for Christmas that were packed with care, and are now broken, or have parts missing.

“I didn’t cry until I saw the things inside,” Bartolotta said.

She said when she called Delta to tell them what happened, she was shocked when all they offered her was a few hundred dollars in travel vouchers instead of cash to replace the broken luggage and gifts. She said that’s when she called News 6, and also pushed Delta to do better. She said the airline then sent her a check for $357.50. in addition to the vouchers. But Bartolotta says the vouchers are worthless

“I don’t want to fly Delta again at all,” Bartolotta said.

She said Delta should reimburse her for the more than $600 she spent on all the luggage and the gifts.

“I want the bags that I bought, and the brands that I bought,” Bartolotta said.

News 6 contacted Delta’s baggage department, and even Delta’s corporate office to try to get Bartolotta and her friends some results.

A representative sent this link to the website. It shows that the actual value for reimbursement of lost or damaged property shall be determined by the documented original purchase price, less any applicable depreciation for prior usage and cannot exceed $3,500 per fare-paying customer.

“While the customer did not produce any documentation of purchases for reimbursement, we did provide an additional goodwill gesture of more than $300 for her experience despite this,” said Drake Castaneda with Delta Airlines. “We regretted to learn of this customer’s baggage issue on a recent trip. We have been in direct contact with the customer to offer our assistance and apologies for the experience.”

Bartolotta said she doesn’t have any receipts for the gifts she bought because they were handmade by Bali artisians and street vendors who only accepted Bali currency.

“I paid cash for everything,” Bartolotta said. “It’s just really unfortunate. I can’t replace those things.”

Bartolotta said the whole experience is making her think twice about ever checking in her bags. She said she wants Delta to know that their customer service failed her when it counted the most.

So what are your rights if your bags or gifts are damaged during a flight?

Amelia Rodriguez, who is a travel advisor with Travel Planners International in Maitland, said all major airline companies require proof of purchase for replacement items to prevent fraud.

“Surely they are responsible for replacing the bag, what gets a little tricky is the contents of the bag,” Rodriguez said. “So it’s important for you to have some kind of proof of what was in that bag. Certainly if you can provide any type of receipts, that would be ideal because people can absolutely lie through their teeth and say they’ve got a Rolex in there. So that’s what we would recommend. That you have pictures and receipts,” she said.

Here are Amelia's top 4 tips to protect your stuff while traveling.

  1. Try to book a direct flight
  2. Take pictures of the contents of your bags
  3. Pack a carry on bag
  4. Get travel insurance

"Always buy travel insurance, because even the smallest of trips can have their hiccups," Rodriguez said.

Another great tip?

"Take a picture of your suitcase right before you close it up, so you remember what was in your suitcase," Rodriguez said.

She says even taking a picture of the item and taking notes at the place of purchase, with the amount used to buy it can help provide the proof of purchase you need for both the airlines and insurance providers when submitting the claim. That way there will be no questions as to what was purchased at what price. You can always delete the pictures after your items arrive safely from the airport.