ConsumerWatch: American Airlines Takes Months to Give Man’s Money Back

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After losing $500 on an American Airlines flight, a Bay Area resident says it took him months of fighting to get his money back.

Kenneth Golder and his girlfriend were on their way to Hawaii for a dream vacation. In a rush to get off the plane, Golder didn’t notice that his envelope with $500 cash fell out of his jacket. Luckily for him, Donald Dunbar, another passenger sitting near Golder on the flight found it.

“I picked the envelope up and there’s a bunch of hundred dollar bill in there and I’m like ‘Oh my God!’” Dunbar said.

After finding the envelope, Dunbar immediately set out to find the owner, going to the baggage claim to ask people if they lost anything. As an extra precaution, he made sure not to mention it was an envelope full of cash that was lost, but that only made Golder skeptical.

“I didn’t know if it was a con game or something he was playing with me,” Golder said.

However, later that night, after Golder discovered he had lost his money, he realized it wasn’t a con at all.

Golder decided to contact American Airlines, but after his numerous calls went unanswered, he said he and his girlfriend prayed for a miracle. A week later, Golder ran into Dunbar at the airport Starbucks.

Golder went to American’s counter to reclaim the cash that Dunbar had turned in, but he was denied. He was told that he had to wait.

“The person said that they would contact me within a couple weeks,” he explained.

The 2 weeks, however, turned into 6 months of unanswered phone calls and emails. At the end of his rope, Golder contacted ConsumerWatch, and only then did American start responding.

Travel attorney Al Anolik said he was shocked at how long Golder had been battling the airline to get his money back.

“Under the Montreal Convention, they have only 21 days to respond to luggage, here they had cash and they knew whose it was. They should have paid him,” Anolik explained.

American refused to return Golder’s money even though he repeatedly offered to describe the bills in the envelope and could prove he was assigned to the seat the envelope was found on. Golder was also refused an interview.

“The information provided…does not satisfy the requirements…of ownership of money,” a statement from American said.

Four months after ConsumerWatch’s involvement and seven months after Golder lost his money, he finally received a check for $500, interest-free.

Anolik said Golder is likely entitled to compensation, including interest, costs incurred, and his work hourly rate for his time spent trying to get his money back. At this point, Golder would have to take American to Small Claims Court, which is complicated by the airline’s bankruptcy. Golder said he’s logged about 50 hours of emails and phone calls.

Golder is hoping he can get American to repay him for his time and effort, but for now, he’s stuck with just the check.

“That’s all they did. With all my time and interest, I was hoping they would sort of compensate me for that,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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