Traveling from New York to Hungary, I have had baggage delayed twice. American Airlines had a special car drive the bags 2 hours to my location the next day, and gave a $100 reimbursement for emergency replacement of items for that missing day.
British Airways is another story. The bags hadn't arrived in Vienna when we arrived. The whereabouts were unknown, but the next day they showed up at the airport. We couldn't communicate with the airport baggage handlers directly to give them our address; we needed to fill out a form with BA and they would telex -- TELEX -- the information to the airport. Then, we would need to wait for a phone call between working hours to give them directions how to reach our address. Every day, when the phone call never arrived, we would call BA back, and discover that the information was garbled--that an address in Hungary isn't a local phone number, that it needs an international country code, that we are not at our origin since we left it via airplane so there is no point in calling it. After 3 days, the information was allegedly straightened out. From that point, there was no longer a reason for them not to call us. Since there was still no way to contact the airport, we had no choice but to call BA every few hours and plead with them to get the airport to call us. All they did was tell us they sent these pleas via telex, and it was a one-way communication so there was no way to receive a direct response. They could not or would not give us a phone number directly to the people they were sending the telexes to. We sent messages to BA customer service headquarters, since the BA staff in Vienna were not helping. Their customer service never responded, not even with an automated message.
After a week of no clothing, our own deodorant, or toothbrushes, we looked up the address of the airport on the web and tracked down a working phone number for the baggage handlers. They delivered the bag the next day, though with reluctance over the distance and the country border. We never did hear from BA customer service, and we never got a cent for the inconvenience, because we needed receipts for our items in order to get any money.
Just fuck them. I understand that the company was at the mercy of Austria's sadistic concept of customer service, but the organization should still be held responsible for those it hires or contracts. For contrast, I once complained to AA when the TV in my seat wasn't working on an international flight, and I got a $100 voucher (which I never used). No airline is perfect, but there is an expectation on customer service in fixing problems that is lacking with BA.