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DOT: Airlines abusing missing-baggage rules

They're breaking the rules for reimbursing passengers when luggage is late or disappears.

By Karen Datko Oct 13, 2009 12:52PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Airlines can't arbitrarily limit compensation for passengers who purchase necessities because their bags were lost or delayed, the U.S. Department of Transportation has warned carriers.

In its notice, DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office said a number of carriers have policies stating that they will reimburse passengers only for buying necessities purchased more than 24 hours after arrival, and limiting such reimbursements to the outbound legs of trips.

 

Those policies violate DOT regulations, which require that airlines cover all expenses caused by lost or delayed baggage up to $3,300 per passenger on domestic flights, DOT said.

 

"Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "We expect airlines to comply with all of our regulations and will take enforcement action if they do not."

 

Hassles with airline baggage handling are nothing new to travelers, as evidenced by this sample of complaints sent to ConsumerAffairs.com:

  • Anthony R. from Alpharetta, Ga., said a bag containing medication that he had checked on an American Airlines flight from Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico, failed to arrive on time. Anthony wrote, "My bag arrived at the hotel at 10:30 a.m. -- 11 hours after it was received at the airport! AA claims it is not responsible because baggage handlers are to deliver lost bags within four hours of receipt and they are not AA employees -- but it is AA who charged the $15 (to check the bag) and it is AA who lost the bag."
  • Gwen W. of Orange Village, Ohio, said that when she arrived in Omaha on a Northwest flight from Cleveland via Minneapolis, her one piece of checked baggage did not arrive with her. Gwen told ConsumerAffairs.com that the Northwest agent at the Omaha airport checked the Northwest online system and told her that her bag was due in the next day. But, she said, here's what really happened after she investigated the matter further: "My baggage arrived before me/my flight arrived (Northwest made the choice to put my baggage on an earlier flight -- I didn't). My baggage was stored in the Omaha airport by Northwest personnel (Northwest made that choice -- I didn't). When I asked Northwest Omaha personnel about my baggage, they failed to tell me that my baggage was already in their possession (Northwest made an error)."

DOT said airlines should review their passenger handouts and contracts of carriage to make sure they comply with DOT rules. The Aviation Enforcement Office will monitor carriers' compliance and take enforcement action if necessary after 90 days from the issuance of the notice.

 

Last month the department fined an airline for providing compensation for delayed baggage only for the outbound leg of round-trip flights and only for purchases made more than 24 hours after arrival, among other violations.

 

Related reading at ConsumerAffairs.com:

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