I need your help. Spirit Airlines lost my luggage and won't replace it. I flew from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Las Vegas almost six months ago, and my checked bags disappeared.

The airline has been uncooperative and difficult to contact. I filed a claim when my bags didn't show up in Las Vegas. My travel insurance company, Travel Guard, also got them to send me claim forms. But Spirit won't return my calls, and my e-mails just get an automated response. Its online tracking system has no record of my luggage claim.

I went to Spirit's corporate headquarters in Miramar, Fla., but their lobby is "self-service" and has a sign that boasts it "saves two cents" by having a phone on a desk instead of a receptionist.

I finally got through to someone on the phone who told me to expect a refund soon. But that was more than a month ago, and I still don't have anything. I think Spirit is avoiding me. How can I get it to compensate me for my luggage?

- M.G., Palm Beach, Fla.


Spirit should have settled your claim quickly. The airline promises it will handle lost luggage claims two weeks to a month after receiving your claim and conducting a secondary trace.

But did it ever receive your claims? Yes and no. I checked with Spirit, and it says it got your claim, but not within 30 days of your flight, as it requires. That would explain why there was no record of your problem. The airline didn't process your paperwork.

When you filed your initial lost luggage claim at the airport, you didn't deal with a Spirit employee. Spirit outsourced some of its baggage-claim operations in Las Vegas at the time of your flight. To me, that would have sent up a red flag that you needed to follow up with the airline as soon as possible - certainly within 24 hours - to ensure that Spirit knew your luggage was lost.

Buying travel insurance wasn't a bad idea, but your insurance company should have done more than ask Spirit to send you another claim form. I think you could have leaned on Travel Guard a little more to get an answer from Spirit, and if the answer was "no," to process an insurance claim promptly - assuming your policy covered lost luggage.

I would also have contacted Travel Guard as soon as your luggage vanished. Every Travel Guard policy comes with "24-hour '911' travel-emergency service" to help passengers with, among other things, lost-luggage tracking.

You aren't the only one who has had trouble contacting Spirit. The sign you saw in the lobby of its headquarters might as well be its corporate mission statement, according to many passengers I've spoken with. Spirit's customer-service department is described as difficult to reach by phone, is fond of sending form letters to its customers, and is reluctant to pay refunds or to compensate its passengers for inconveniences.

I'm not as baffled by Spirit's refusal to process your claim as I am by its ability to lose your luggage - permanently - on a nonstop flight. How did it do that? Usually it takes a connection or two, and most lost bags are eventually recovered.

After I contacted Spirit, it agreed to make an exception to its 30-day rule and processed your claim. The airline sent you a check for $300 to cover your losses.