Delta's Retroactive Baggage Fee Entitles Travelers To A Full Refund

Passengers who purchased Delta tickets before the airline announced its new baggage surcharge can request a full refund thanks to Delta’s contract of carriage. According to the contract, you “may request a full refund” if Delta makes a change that “materially affects the terms and conditions of your ticket purchase.” Most travelers won’t exercise their right to a refund, but if that planned vacation is starting to look a little too pricey, this tip is for you.

From Delta’s contract of carriage:

D. Amendments to Conditions of Carriage

1. Amendment by Delta

…Your travel will be governed by the rules that are in effect on the date your travel begins. In the event that we amend these Conditions of Carriage in a way that materially affects the terms and conditions of your ticket purchase after you have purchased your ticket but before your travel begins, and you do not agree to be bound by the rules as amended, you may request a full refund of your ticket price.

“Materially adverse” means the same thing to airlines that it means to cellphone companies. To receive a refund, you need to have booked your ticket before February 4, with travel commencing after May 5.

Unlike cellphone contracts, your goal isn’t to break free without penalty so you can switch to another carrier. You most likely want the fee waived. Here’s what you can try: call Delta, and explicitly state three things;

  • 1. You are affected by the new baggage fee, which constitutes a material change to the contract;
  • 2. You do not agree to pay the new fee;
  • 3. As a result, Delta’s contract of carriage entitles you to a full refund.

Mention that you may be willing to keep your scheduled booking if they are willing to waive the new baggage fees. Keep in mind that Delta is only required to refund your full fare, not waive the fee. Still, it’s worth a shot. If you call, send an email to the tipline and let us know how it goes.

2nd Checked Bag Fee Roundup… [DansDeals]
PREVIOUSLY: Delta’s New Baggage Fee Is Retroactive


Edit Your Comment

  1. mmbb says:

    Carey, did you confirm this with Delta first? Well, I guess you’re the lawyer, so…

  2. agb2000 says:

    It’s kind of unclear whether this Delta policy applies to international flights, although it looks to me like it wouldn’t.

    On the topic. the International Contract of Carriage says only:

    1. Two Checked Bags and One Carry-On Item
    For most flights, Delta accepts a maximum of two checked baggage items and one carry-on item free of
    charge for each ticketed passenger. Lower limits may apply on some flights in Delta’s sole discretion.

    So, I guess they could restrict you, but only the Domestic Contract of Carriage actually specifies the fee.

    See: Delta International Contract of Carriage if interested.

  3. Wonder if they’ll be giving people the run around about this… We all know how well companies react to refunds or waivers.

  4. @mmbb: Does it matter? It’s just a bargaining tool. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. And you’re no worse off than before.

    Besides, how would Carey’s call to Delta go?

    Hi, yes, this is Delta. Yes, that is correct, we can confirm that anyone who booked tickets before we announced the fee may cancel without penalty. Yup. Have a great day, Carey, and please call back anytime!


  5. @Michael Belisle: Well, I guess that is how it went when RCR Wireless News talked to T-Mobile. But I still justify my earlier snarkiness by pointing out that T-Mobile is great, unlike Delta.

  6. StevenJohn says:

    And what happens when Delta says “take your bucks and go somewhere else” (or words to that effect).

    Let’s be real. That same flight on another carrier with the late booking date is going to be more than the cost of the Delta flight that purchased far in advance and got the cheap seats. IF you can book on another carrier.

    Ya wanna play negotiator ya better have a backup plan already in place.

    BTW, that contract was written by Delta’s scum bag lawyers. Scum bag lawyers being scum bag lawyers we can all guess that “material change” does not mean the same thing to every scum bag lawyer.

  7. EricaKane says:

    Umm, I’m guessing that an additional fee for a bag is not a material change in the ticket, as you can still get the substantial value of the contract – i.e. you get to flow from Point A to Point B.

    Integrated options like text messaging are theoretically material because they are intergrated into your phone and the primary purpose of the phone – which is to use it to communicate. An addition fee for a second bag is probably not material and good luck convincing some low level CSR of that fact.

  8. ecwis says:

    @EricaKane: Well they changed their Contract of Carriage so it is a “material” change.

  9. dragonfire81 says:

    Regardless of this I still think the fee backdating was scummy to begin with.

  10. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Worst headline in a very long time Consumerist. This will have -no- effect on someone who has retroactively seen a charge for their additional luggage ‘after’ they have flown on their flight.

    This is only a way to get out of the contract of carriage do to a material change in the terms of contract, but it doesn’t effect the ‘retroactive’ charges, unless by ‘retroactive’ you mean “I’ve booked my ticket and then you changed the fees” rather than “I flew a month ago and suddenly you charged a new fee after the fact”

  11. t-r0y says:

    How is this different than what Carnival did by charging a fuel surcharges after the tickets were sold.
    (Carnival Will Refund $40 Million In Fuel Fees:[])

  12. LUV2CattleCall says:


    Two words, that, technically are only one word: Air Tran

    Doesn’tEvenLeaveTheAirport, aside from their Biscoff/Lance crackers, can go to Chapter 11 faster than a kid with a Harry Potter book for all I care.

  13. levenhopper says:

    Wait…I posted that exact quote in the comments after this story originally broke.

    Plus, I had the exact same point that the sentence following the quote expresses.

    Where’s my credit?

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Anything that causes churn w/in Delta’s legal and PR staff over bone-headedly retroactively applying charges is a good thing.
    Raise a stink, even if you only get a discount in the end. It’ll make them gunshy over making retroactive fees SOP.

  15. eyeloveelvis says:

    I wasn’t aware of the charge until I got to the airport. I reluctantly paid the additional fee. Is there anything you can recommend that might help me get a refund for the charge I incurred?

  16. davidmac2003 says:

    Elvis: The DOT just issued a statement saying those fees are not ok. See


    Good luck with the refund!