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Just bill BA

September 09, 2007|Catharine Hamm

Question: With growing concern, my wife and I read the article "Lost Cause" in the Aug. 12 Travel section. We will be flying British Airways through London's Heathrow in October on the way to Berlin and again in December on the way to Israel. If the airline loses the luggage and we are forced to buy clothing etc., is the airline responsible? What words of wisdom, if any, do you have?

Edward Trabin

Torrance

Answer: You should be fine flying on British Airways through Heathrow if you're going to a clothing-optional resort

But if you prefer wearing clean, different clothes each day, this could be a problem.

BA and Heathrow have been a mess this summer and probably will be until the March opening of Terminal 5, which will consolidate BA's operations. Further, at its current pace, BA is on track to mishandle more than a million pieces of luggage this year.

The good news: If you and your bag part company, British Airways is responsible, and even it says so. "BA . . . will pay for any 'first-need items' purchased by the traveler, plus any costs of clothing required -- i.e. for business meetings," John Lampl, a BA spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to me.

You'll have to be proactive to make sure your claims are paid. "At time of arrival -- with no bags -- a claim must be filed," he wrote. "Then after 10 days the traveler has the right to file an additional claim. . . for the value of the contents of the bag (plus the bag)." The maximum payout is $1,500 a bag.

Although we claim no corner on wisdom, we do have two pieces of advice for Trabin -- or, really, anyone traveling anywhere:

First, the bag mishandling crisis isn't confined to London; it's pretty wretched in the U.S. too. BA's website suggests it and I second this motion: Consider travel insurance. Many policies will reimburse for baggage delayed or lost. To compare policies, look at www.insuremytrip.com. It will ask the ages of the travelers, cost of the trip, destination and origin and will give you quotes from various companies. It will add to the cost of your trip, but the peace of mind may be worth it.

Also, take with you the contract for carriage of any airline you'll be flying. You can print it out or download it to a portable drive. BA's contract is at www.britishairways.com/travel/genconcarr1/public/en_gb, but you can find most any airline's by typing in "carriage" in its search box.

A contract for carriage may be the world's most boring document, but it outlines your rights and generally spells out what an airline is required to do for you in case of problems. It's an excellent tool to have with you.

Just make sure you pack it in your carry-on.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel @latimes.com.

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