When Lufthansa lost $5,000 worth of luggage for one woman, she says she spent $1,000 and traveled from Malaysia to Germany to hunt for her bag herself

  • Irene Ortega was flying from France to Germany when she says her $955 Rimowa suitcase was lost.

  • When 42 days passed without her suitcase, she flew from Malaysia to Germany to search for the bag.

  • Ortega said she couldn't find her bag — altogether, worth $5,000 — at Lufthansa's luggage warehouses.

When Irene Ortega's new, shiny black Rimowa suitcase was lost on a Lufthansa flight, she spent more than $1,000 on flights and 14 hours on a plane in an attempt to track down her bag, she told Insider.

While she said she convinced Lufthansa staff to let her comb through rows of lost suitcases once she landed in Munich on a flight from Malaysia, Ortega couldn't find her $955 suitcase and its contents, which she said were worth around $4,000.

It's been more than three months, and Ortega's bag is still missing. But she told Insider she wants her luggage back, along with the Gucci sneakers, Le Creuset accessories, and the designer goods inside.

Ortega lost her bag at the end of a 3-week trip to Europe

At the end of May, Ortega and her husband were wrapping up a three-week trip across Europe. One of the final flights was from Toulouse, France, to Frankfurt, Germany, with a layover in Munich. (The itinerary was viewed by Insider.)

On May 22, the couple arrived at the airport in Toulouse, where they priority-checked their two bags with Lufthansa, Ortega said.

They landed in Frankfurt and headed for baggage claim. Ortega said her husband's bag came out immediately, and they waited for Ortega's Rimowa suitcase to land on the conveyor belt.

Soon, it became clear that Ortega's bag wasn't there.

The same day, Ortega filed a report with Lufthansa (which was viewed by Insider) for the missing luggage. Airport staff told her at the time that passengers are usually reunited with their suitcases within a few days.

Ortega and her husband were only in Germany for a day, and by the end of it, she still didn't have her bag or any updates on where it might be, she said. After contacting the airline and learning that they still hadn't found her bag, Ortega headed back to one of her homes in the Philippines.

When she got home, she didn't give up her search. Every day, she said she called and emailed Lufthansa requesting updates on her lost luggage. But since the customer-service representatives weren't stationed at the Munich or Frankfurt airport, she said they never had any updates specific to her case.

In a statement sent to Insider, a Lufthsana representative said that "travelers can report lost baggage up to 21 days after arrival. Lufthansa then searches intensively for the lost baggage for at least 90 days, regardless of whether or not compensation claims have already been made by the travelers."

Lufthansa did not respond to a request for comment on Ortega's case specifically.

Irene Ortega said she wasn't sure which airport had her bag, so she flew to 2

Around day 20 of her bag missing, Lufthansa issued Ortega $1,700 in compensation. (The email was viewed by Insider.)

In a statement sent to Insider, a Lufthansa representative said, "The Montreal Convention has established binding regulations on damage to or loss of baggage." The convention, which is an agreed-upon treaty with most developed nations, outlines the rules airlines must follow when it comes to claims for delayed, lost, or damaged luggage. Forbes reported that as of January 2023, the max compensation is about $1,731 — close to the amount that Ortega received.

Still, Ortega wanted her bag back.

By the sixth week without it, Ortega decided to take matters into her own hands.

At the time, she was in Malaysia and booked a flight to Munich that she said cost her about $910. When she landed in Munich on July 3, she begged Lufthansa workers at the airport to let her look for her bag.

A room with luggage at the Munich Airport in Germany.
A room with luggage at the Frankfurt airport in Germany.Irene Ortega

"After crying and begging, I was able to go to one small storage room," Ortega said. The room only held bags for recent flights, and since Ortega's bag had been missing for a while, it wasn't there, she said.

But Ortega wasn't done looking.

Since her original flight landed in Frankfurt, she thought there was a chance her bag could be there. Plus, she said she had read rumors on a Lufthansa Complaints Facebook group that Munich often sends lost luggage to warehouses in Frankfurt.

So, she booked a Lufthansa flight from Munich to Frankfurt for the next day to continue her search.

This flight, she said, cost her 14,000 miles and $130.

In Frankfurt, Ortega said a Lufthansa worker agreed to help her search in one of the airport's warehouses where they keep lost luggage. In the room, she spotted hundreds of bags belonging to travelers.

"I was shocked," she said. "You can imagine, it's just floor-to-ceiling racks of luggage."

Unfortunately, she said, her bag wasn't within the aisles of suitcases either.

Irene Ortega said her suitcase was filled with luxury items she had purchased on her three-week trip to Europe.
Irene Ortega said her suitcase was filled with luxury items she had purchased on her three-week trip to Europe.Irene Ortega

Ortega said the compensation doesn't begin to cover the luxury items in her suitcase

Ortega said her Rimowa Essential suitcase cost her $955.

Inside, she said she had designer labels as well as brand-new belongings she purchased during the three-week trip. The items included a pair of $923 Gucci sneakers, $215 of Le Creuset accessories, a $225 Mont Blanc belt, and $875 worth of skincare.

"Inside, everything is branded," Ortega said referring to the designer items in her suitcase. "Even my underwear is branded."

Together, her total claim amount was $4,968 (which was viewed by Insider).

But Ortega said it's not just the money that she cares about. Some of the items in her bag had value beyond their cost, and she said she believes Lufthansa should take more accountability for losing her bag.

Ortega is one of thousands of travelers to lose their luggage

During the last few months, Ortega has been scouring the Lufthansa Complaints Facebook group daily searching for advice and tips from other travelers. The group, which isn't directly affiliated with the airline, has more than 10,000 members and is dedicated to Lufthansa passengers who say they've had issues with flights and baggage.

In the group, passengers describe similar stories of lost luggage. Some users share their tips and tricks on how they successfully tracked down their bags — like showing up to the airport in person — and others share horror stories of searching for lost luggage in enormous warehouses to no avail.

Ortega said she's been shocked that there are so many stories like hers.

Lost luggage is a larger issue in the airline industry.

The Department of Transportation reported that across 10 US-based carriers, there were more than 200,000 mishandled bags in May 2023 alone.

And it's not just Ortega who has gone to great lengths to look for lost bags. Earlier this year, Dermot Lennon arrived at the Dublin Airport only to learn that his bag had been lost on his flight between Ireland and Australia, as Insider previously reported. After a week without his luggage, he purchased a plane ticket so he could access the airport's baggage claim, where he ultimately found his bag.

Do you have a travel nightmare to share? Insider would like to hear from you. Email mhumphries@insider.com.

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