Southwest Damages Suitcase, Not As Awesome As Everyone Claims

Sure, you don’t have to pay to check your luggage on Southwest. Tara tells Consumerist that after her new suitcase was stained and broken while in Southwest’s hands, and she’d rather pay to check a bag that survives the trip intact. The airline says it’s their policy not to repair or replace suitcases damaged in transit. They’ve offered her a $100 voucher for future flights. Tara, who tried Southwest based on positive comments from Consumerist readers, isn’t interested in flying with them again.

She writes:

As a loyal Consumerist reader, I’ve noticed that when there are stories on your site about problems with airlines many commenters respond that the OP should have traveled with Southwest, since they’re so awesome.

I took those readers up on their suggestion and decided to take my most recent trip with Southwest. I had a conference to attend in Louisville, to which I traveled on Sunday, October 10. I arrived in Louisville on time, but my bag did not. It apparently never made it onto the flight. I spoke with a baggage handler. He asked where I was coming from, and I told him Tucson via Chicago. He made the comment that it’s not uncommon for a bag coming through Midway to be lost and assured me it would probably be on the next flight. He also informed me that the other person on my flight who had come from Tucson to Chicago to Louisville had just filled out a claim for her missing bag as well.

To his credit, he was correct about the bag showing up. My bag came in on the last flight of the night from Chicago. Although I was irritated that I had to stay up to wait and see if my bag arrived, Southwest dutifully delivered the bag to my hotel. At this point, I was pretty happy with how the issue was handled.

As I dragged my bag up to my hotel room (they have to leave them at the front desk per their policy), I realized that it was making a weird sound and giving me a bit of resistance. I turned it around and looked at it. Although it was stained (this appeared to be a grease stain or something) on the outside, the wheel looked okay from where I stood. Once I got it into the room, I realized that both wheels were bent, and a foot was broken off of the luggage. Fortunately, everything in the bag seemed fine.

Since I had just purchased the luggage the Monday before my trip, I figured I could just e-mail Southwest. I offered them pictures of the damaged suitcase and offered to send them my receipt as soon as I returned home from my trip.

Wednesday morning I received an e-mail from Southwest indicating that they are NOT responsible for damage to the feet or wheels of a suitcase, even if it is brand new when given to them. They offered me a $100 LUV voucher for my troubles. The e-mail was sent from an e-mail address that doesn’t accept replies. So, when I replied to it to indicate this solution was not acceptable, I received an automated e-mail that directed me back to Southwest’s website in order to contact them again. It came as no surprise to me that when I tried to access this portion of Southwest’s website it was not functional.

I know I have been fortunate that in 20 years of flying I’ve never had a bag lost or damaged. However, I’m disappointed that an airline that claims to be all about great service did not make more of an effort to rectify the situation. I’m also perturbed that they have a policy about not being responsible for damaging peoples’ bags (I know, call me naïve, but I found that surprising). It’s no wonder their employees treated my bag is if they were the gorilla from the old Samsonite commercials; they know they’re not going to be held accountable for damaging luggage. This policy seems full of fail to me.

So, although it was nice of Southwest to allow my bags to fly free, I would rather they had charged me and gotten my luggage to me in the condition I gave it to them. I have to fly home with them on Friday, and I intend for that to be my last flight with them. Despite all the complaints I read about American Airlines, they fly the same route and have managed no to lose or destroy my bags. So my business is going back to them. I’m sure they have a similar policy to Southwest’s, but I guess I’ll stick with the devil I know.

My question for Consumerist readers is, have you ever had success getting an airline to compensate you for damaged luggage? If so, how did you do it?

Always check your bag over for damage immediately after arriving: many airlines will only acknowledge damaged-suitcase claims made in person within a few hours of the flight’s arrival. (Tina’s bag was delivered to her hotel–the wheels could have been damaged by the driver who delivered her bag, too.)

While many airlines will pay to have your suitcase fixed, they don’t have to. The Department of Transportation guidelines say:

If your suitcase arrives smashed or torn, the airline will usually pay for repairs. If it can’t be fixed, they will negotiate a settlement to pay you its depreciated value.


Edit Your Comment

  1. apd09 says:

    I had something similar happen to me a year or so ago, a brand new suitcase arrived with my zipper busted. I tried to get American to fix it and they said they are not responsible because it could have broken due to turbulence in the air if another bag fell on it and not from one of their baggage handlers throwing the bag around.
    There is really not much you can do and a 100 gift certificate sounds a like a great deal from Southwest because you can get flights from them for 39 each way so you could get a round trip ticket for free on that.

    • longdvsn says:

      So next time she flies on SW… use the $100 voucher and take the $100 cash/credit that would have gone to the flight to cover the cost of a new suitcase (unless you roll with some designer stuff). Or sell the voucher for ~$80 online/craigslist and use that to buy a new bag

    • common_sense84 says:

      Nice try, Southwest.

      A 100 voucher is not fine at all. Most people don’t need to travel between two cities that actually have the cheap flights. Most people are going to be paying 100-250 for each way on southwest.

      And southwest knows this. Otherwise they would have given her a voucher for one free round trip.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      A couple years ago I bought a brand new bag while in Japan, and flew Delta back to the US with it. On the long leg of the trip it stayed with me as a carry-on, but in the short leg via much smaller plane, it was checked plane-side. When we arrived they handed it back to me with the wheels smashed off! If not for some very kind pilots towing it on their carry-ons, I wouldn’t have gotten the bag from the gate. When I complained they offered exactly nothing. Repeatedly. She is very lucky to have gotten $100 voucher on a bag she could possibly return for repairs or warranty issues!

  2. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’m not sure if Consumerist filtered out the breaks but that supersized paragraph is very hard to read.

  3. TuxthePenguin says:

    I hate to break it to you, but $100 for a damaged bag isn’t that bad of an offer.

    A lot of times bags being damaged or lost is just random, dumb luck. I flew American Airlines for years without any problems and then I had them lose my bag, damage by bag and lose my bag on three consecutive trips. Since then, I’ve never had a problem.

    Crap happens.

    • George4478 says:

      It wasn’t $100.

      It was a $100 coupon for more service on an airline that just provided bad service to the OP.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        Yeah, I do understand the difference. But if she’s going to need to fly again, that $100 voucher basically comes $100. If she chooses to ignore the offer and just complain about it, she’s out the cost of replacing the lugging AND $100 on her next flight.

        Being petty doesn’t win you anything. Take the $100 voucher and fly again. See if they mess up again… I hate how people try to base their entire opinion of a place on one bad experience.

        • Shadowfax says:

          If she’s going to need to fly again, that $100 becomes handcuffs that chain you to that airline if you want compensation for your property that they broke.

          There are lots of airlines out there. Forcing me to fly on the one that pissed me off isn’t compensation.

    • tungstencoil says:

      I agree with you. I can’t think of any carrier (and I fly for work and fun frequently, though not 100%) who doesn’t explicitly say they don’t cover luggage.

      It sucks that her luggage was damaged, but a $100 voucher isn’t bad. She doesn’t make mention of how much she paid for the luggage either – was it high-quality/expensive, or a Target special?

  4. etz says:

    the line I usually hear from airlines is that the job of the suitcase is to protect the contents. If the bag is dirtied or damaged, then it did it’s job well. Ha.

    • chuckreis says:

      Yeah seems to me that is the purpose of luggage.

    • Jacquilynne says:

      I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Southwest had offered her anything.

      Both Air Canada and United have extensively damaged my suitcases (in one case, there was a clear tire print across the top of the bag, indicating that someone drove over it in something) and told me that they don’t pay for suitcase damage, but if anything in the suitcase was damaged, to let them know, because they might pay for that.

  5. thewildboo says:

    I undestand the frustrations, but was this a louis vutton suitcase or something? Between the savings of not having to pay to check it (say, $50), plus a $100 voucher (pretty generous), I’d say she made out OK even for a brand-new bag being damaged. It’s unfortunate the bag was damaged but it’s not like they totally blew her off.

  6. ahow628 says:

    Does this mean I don’t have to fly on a future SWA flight with Tara whining in my ear? Good riddance.

    $100 voucher is a phenomenal deal for a damaged bag.

    • nosense22 says:

      I know. I should buy a bunch of $10 suitcases, hope they get damaged and then collect the voucher!

      Maybe she shouldn’t have purchased a cheapo bag.

  7. backinpgh says:

    I understand the editors don’t want to tamper with OP letters too much, but is it so much to ask that SOMEBODY use or insert paragraphs?

  8. Karen says:

    Web forms rarely get you anywhere. Consumerist has better contact information for Southwest in the company directory. Give them a call or write them a letter.

    But Laura is right; the damage could have happened anywhere, so the voucher might be all that you get. This is why I buy cheap suitcases (which, to my surprise, have lasted nearly 10 years and gone all over the world). But that brings up another thought – have you checked on the warranty on your suitcase and/or the return policy at the store where you bought it?

  9. pot_roast says:

    Sorry OP, but this is standard policy among airlines and has been for years. You’re lucky you even got a $100 voucher. You need to report damage to suitcases before you ever leave the airport, which didn’t happen. Wheels are usually considered wear & tear items anyway.

    If your suitcase was near new, complain to the manufacturer for making such a lousy bag. From the sounds of it, you have really flimsy luggage.

    • George4478 says:

      I’m sure she would have been glad to report the damage before leaving the airport but Southwest lost the bag, rendering that option moot by the airline.

  10. backinpgh says:

    I don’t know what kind of fancy luggage this was, but considering that I’ve personally never paid anywhere near $100 for a suitcase, and factoring in that the value has depreciated after use, and I’d say she got a pretty good deal really.

    • George4478 says:

      It’s only a good deal if she wants to give more money to the company that provided her bad service.

      If she wants to give her money to a company that did not lose and damage her luggage, then it’s not a good deal.

      • pdj79 says:

        First of all, I hate the comment “lost luggage” when it shows up on a later flight. That’s not lost…that’s delayed. United LOST one of my suitcases. As in their manifests showed it was loaded on my flight but it did not get unloaded when we landed. It simply vanished. Granted all that was in there was several pairs of clothes and a couple souvenirs, I still NEVER saw them again. That’s lost. Hers was delayed. That happens all the time. So Southwest didn’t LOSE her luggage.

        As for the damage, it’s been stated multiple times here but I will reiterate….luggage is meant to protect the contents, not to be a fashion accessory. Does it suck that your wheels are bent and you have a grease stain? Yes. Is it “I will never fly your airline again” worthy? Hell no. Count your blessings it showed up at all and be extremely thankful the only thing damaged was the case itself. Congratulations, your luggage did it’s job, and did it well I might add. From what was described, there’s a good chance the suitcase got jammed in the conveyor system in the airport and that is completely out of the airline’s hands. It also could have been whoever delivered it to you. They could have accidentally shut their door on it. The point is YOU DON’T KNOW when or how it was damaged and by who. In the end, you were offered something that you really weren’t entitled to…that what makes Southwest great. Any other airline would have told you “Tough sh*t! That’s not our problem.” I had to file countless forms and provide detailed lists and waited almost a year before I finally got a check for what United felt was the value of loss…$150. Still think Southwest is bad?

    • mbz32190 says:

      Exactly. I don’t travel too often, but I just buy the

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      I’m the opposite. I’ve never paid less than about $250 for a suitcase, but I only buy suitcases that have “infinite” warranties. For example, my primary bag can have any damage, even damage that I willfully inflict, and they will repair/replace it for free. The way I see it, I can either pay up front for something that will last a long time, then gets repaired/replaced for free, or I can buy cheaper suitcases multiple times.

      • BBBB says:

        I agree that suitcase parts that stick out (wheels, handles, etc.) are often poorly made and will break easily. I don’t get expensive suitcases because while they are more likely to survive the handling, quality will not help with a lost or stolen bag (an expensive looking bag is more likely to be rifled or stolen). I use a good quality (about a $100) soft suitcase with built in backpack straps that can be tucked into a zippered compartment when the bag is checked.

  11. captadam says:

    One-strike-and-you’re-out attitudes always amaze me. Here’s the thing: when I evaluate airlines, just as when I evaluate politicians, I start out from the point that they all basically suck. So, which one sucks the least? Which crappy, customer-service-ignoring entity is the one that will provide the least aggravation?

    • Slave For Turtles says:

      I think the one-strike-and-you’re-out thing has to do with, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If she went back and had another rotten experience, everyone would be shouting about how stupid she was to use them again.

  12. Marshmelly says:

    Like half of this mega paragraph could be deleted. Southwest delivered your bag, the bag’s wheel and foot were broken, they gave you a $100 voucher (which sounds like pretty goos compensation to me). Why the extensive dramatic story? They didn’t lose your dog.

  13. dolemite says:

    It’s a suitcase…they are going to get banged up and dirty. It’s like crying because the bottoms of your shoes got gum on them.

  14. Hollihocks says:

    Seriously people? If this were Delta, everyone would be all “Death to Delta” yada yada yada. It’s like making excuses for your girlfriend cheating on you repeatedly and staying with her.

    For a company to tout its customer service, its focus on bags and love for free bags (hello commercials), this is a major fail.

    The $100 voucher is useless to her – she’s already been burned by Southwest and doesn’t want to use them again (much like those who bitch about getting a Delta voucher and don’t want to fly them again).

    No, the airline doesn’t have to do it, but this is a core value fail.

    That being said, US Airways (of all airlines) recently destroyed my friend’s suitcase (and all of her shoes and some clothes in it) on her flight from CLT-PHL-MAD. DESTROYED. She couldn’t go turn in her claim in time (bus to Seville to catch), so her mother actually went to CLT, pictures in hand, and they even did it for them. CRAZY. She’s getting an $800 check. Not an $800 voucher.

    If US Airways can be that nice, I’m sure Southwest has it in them, too haha.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Having a suitcase and all things lost/destroyed is a very, very different problem than having a wheel get broken and a stain on your suitcase. (Not to mention regulations and carrier law has a lot to do with that. They have to give you cash for destroyed or lost luggage…)

      If you want to write off a company/entity/thing after one bad experience, good darn luck to you. But $100 for a broken wheel is a phenomenal deal.

    • SkyRattlers says:

      What if someone buys a cheap, shoddily constructed piece of luggage? One that is destined to break regardless of how well it is handled? Why should airlines have to cover that damage?

    • Kavatar says:

      Damaging a suitcase is totally different from damaging a suitcase AND its contents. The latter is way more likely to get a response out of the airline, regardless of what airline it is.

  15. t325 says:

    This is why I don’t buy expensive suitcases, because it’s going to get scratched and banged up, if it ever arrives to my destination at all.

    I don’t understand why people will spend $400 on a set of fancy luggage when there’s the real possibility of it getting lost and you never seeing it again. I bought a 4 piece set of cheap luggage for $50 from JC Penny and it has served me well, and if it gets banged up or damaged, I won’t care. When it starts to look like it’s been through hell and back, I’ll toss it and buy a new $50 luggage set.

  16. SkokieGuy says:

    Dearest Tara,

    #1: Paragraphs are your friend. Try them sometime!

    #2: You’re not going to fly Southwest again, apparently you won’t be flying at all. Virtually all carriers exclude wheels and handles and things that project outside of the luggage.

    #3: As others have noted, to give you a $100 voucher, when contractually they are required to do nothing is pretty awesome.

    #4: Do you enjoy being named for the fictional Southern mansion of the fictional Scarlett O’Hara? Have you been known to fashion outfits from window coverings?

  17. sirwired says:

    What kind of bag are we talking about here? A cheapo WalMart special could most certainly sustain damage to wheels and plastic parts as a result of ordinary (and reasonable) handling, even when brand new. Pictures would be nice.

    • lettucefactory says:

      Yeah, that would be some seriously valuable context for this post.

      I’ve had suitcases damaged before on a couple of airlines. I’ve never thought to demand compensation for it. I pretty much assume all baggagge handlers are throwing them around and usually, I’m just glad my bags last as long as they do. Who here has not watched out the window in horror before takeoff as the handlers hurl suitcases around?

      That said, I don’t generally buy expensive luggage. If the OP had a new, pricey bag that should have held up to rough treatment, I understand her consternation.

      Overall, though, I just see bruised luggage as one of the many, many terrible things about flying.

  18. Straspey says:

    Whenever traveling, it’s always a good idea to assume that while your luggage is out of your sight, it is being handled by our staff and employees in the following manner:

    Please take the proper precautions.

    Thank you,
    The Management

    • packy says:

      I was just coming to post the exact same video.

      I miss the days when it was EXPECTED that your bag would be mis-handled.

  19. abberz3589 says:

    The same thing happened to my suitcase a few years ago when I went to Iceland. I had flown with American to Boston, then with Icelandair to Iceland. I noticed the wheel seemed a little loose when I transferred the bag to the second flight (the wait was forever so we had to get our bags and recheck them back in), but when I got my luggage in Iceland, the wheel was completely gone. This was a brand new suitcase, the kind with four wheels, and I was so disappointed.

    But- Icelandair went above and beyond. They gave me a card of a suitcase repairer in town and told me they would pay for the repair. The lady picked up my suitcase from the hotel and returned it the next day, good as new. Repacking it was annoying, but I was so happy that they were actually nice about it.

  20. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    While I do think that SW should have a slightly more personal touch for these kinds of situations, I don’t really understand what the OP expects. Also, how do we know that it was SW’s fault, and not people in other legs of the bag’s precarious journeys?

  21. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    That cat has the evil eye. I think an exorcism is in order.

  22. katarzyna says:

    Based on the comments, I’d guess that most Southwest fliers expect to have their luggage damaged. I’ve never (knock on wood) had an airline damage my suitcase. Of course, I buy nice suitcases that hold up very well to travel, not the cheapo kind that many people here seem to prefer.

    OP, I don’t blame you for being frustrated. I’d take anything recommended by people on this forum with a huge chunk of salt.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      It’s not that anyone expects luggage to be damaged. It’s just that they expect an even lower standard of service from other airlines.

      There’s quite a difference there.

  23. Bativac says:

    1) Sometimes luggage gets damaged and it’s not the airline’s fault. They didn’t lose the bag – it got beat up. I broke a wheel on one of my bags (purchased from Goodwill) once just loading it onto the scale. I guess I smacked it the wrong way.

    2) I think Southwest made you a better offer than Delta or American or United would have. The customer service with those other airlines is so bad, Southwest could break all my luggage everytime I travel and I still wouldn’t go back.

    3) Can I have the voucher if you’re not gonna use it?

  24. Macgyver says:

    People need to learn how to use proper grammar, and learn how to use paragraphs.

  25. Jack Straw from Wichita says:

    I flew southwest recently… had to change a flight at the gate because our first half of the flight was delayed, making it impossible for us to catch the second plane. the gate attendant called into the baggage claim to have them reroute our luggage since we were taking a totally different course. the bags were both yellow, very distinctive and we told them this to help them find it more easily. they assured me that the bags would make it home that night. sure enough once we landed i was called into the baggage claim office because my luggage was in florida. at least they knew where it was, had the choice between delivery of my luggage or a 50 dollar travel voucher if i picked it up myself so I let ’em off easy and took the voucher.

  26. BewareofZealots says:

    SO, the $50+ dollars you saved by not paying a luggage fee won’t buy you a new suitcase?

    • dilbert69 says:

      You don’t save anything by not paying a luggage fee. The cost of carrying your luggage is built into the price of the ticket.

      • BewareofZealots says:

        Yeah, in a 30 second check of flights (Dallas to Los Angeles) American Airlines costs $360 before the $50 of luggage fees, Southwest costs $350 and no luggage fees.

        So, you just saved $60, on one flight.

  27. Bye says:

    Yeah, be sure to come back and let us know what airline it is that will pay for damaged baggage. Even those that make you pay to check your bags won’t cover something like that.

  28. Speak says:

    My girlfriend had a similar situation with a legacy carrier, I don’t remember which one, where a wheel was broken off. They stated that they do not cover objects that protrude from the bag. If the bag was ripped open then they would cover the damage. She did not even get the $100 offer the OP got. The OP should be grateful for the offer of anything since the damage does not sound as bad as some luggage damage I have seen and got nothing for.

  29. common_sense84 says:

    What the consumerist should be asking is if anyone took an airline to small claims court and won.

    Because policy is not law, and it’s entirely possible a judge would force an airline to pay for damages that are clearly not normal wear and tear.

  30. drluba says:

    I recently flew with Qantas, and my suitcase was delayed. When it finally arrived, it was in a huge big plastic bag, and all the contents were loose, as the zipper had been broken. Qantas, when contacted, advised me to have it fixed, and they reimbursed me the cost (which was only $30 in the end).

    Buying quality luggage (Hartmann, etc.) is worth it. It can usually be easily repaired (handles, wheels), and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Hartmann replaced my bag when there was an issue with the fabric, and has fixed the handle and rest (on the bottom of the bag) when they came loose or the screws fell off. Another company repaired the carry-on handle (for free) when it wouldn’t retract properly.

    Better bags are also less likely to get damaged, because the wheels don’t stick out and aren’t made of cheap metal, and the frame and fabric are sturdier.

    I personally would rather have a good bag which looks beat up but works than a succession of cheap, new bags that fall apart with minimal use. But I fly a lot, so investing in good bags is worth it for me. If you don’t, it may not be worth it to you.

  31. ogsoleysol says:

    Not paying for cosmetic damage to suitcases or for broken wheels is standard operating procedure for airlines.

    May I have your voucher if you’re not going to use it?

  32. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    A few years ago I traveled the day before Christmas & my bags came off the carousel wet and stinking of beer. American Airlines offered me $x per bag (I think it was $100) or the option of sending an itemized dry cleaning bill. I took the money.

  33. calchip says:

    Obviously the OP doesn’t fly enough to understand standard policy. All airlines do this. Otherwise, they’d be paying for minor scratches and wear marks that are part of normal baggage handling.

    However, in this case, the damage was beyond normal, and Southwest did offer a $100 voucher, which, if it’s good quality luggage, should be more than enough to get it repaired. If she did contact Southwest customer service (which, by the way has a phone and prefers phonecalls to emails) my guess is she could get someone to help her out. I’ve found them to be extraordinarily accommodating and helpful in cases like this.

    And… if she’d rather fly Delta or United or one of the other godawful carriers that really *don’t* give the slightest crap about their customers… more power to her. It means more available seats for me and all the other people who realize just how amazing Southwest is.

    • dreamfish says:

      “… and Southwest did offer a $100 voucher, which, if it’s good quality luggage, should be more than enough to get it repaired.”

      Ahem, if you’d RTFA:

      “They’ve offered her a $100 voucher for future flights.”

      Suddenly, it’s not such a good deal.

  34. jaredwilliams says:

    100 for a bag…did you pay 100 for the bag? if so you shouldnt have. I paid 50.00 for mine and I travel many times a year for work and have easily fit more than a weeks worth of clothes plus other things. I’ve taken it to Europe for 2 weeks and it was perfectly fine. Maybe you shouldnt pay 100+ bucks for something you let other people toss around goofball. Next time settle on a no name brand instead of a Samsonite or something.

  35. kobresia says:

    I suppose this is almost a “blame the OP” comment, but it seems like the bag she purchased was simply not adequately designed to withstand the rigors of airline baggage handling.

    Her beef really should be with the manufacturer of the suitcase, rather than Southwest. A broken wheel and missing foot? That doesn’t sound like extraordinary abuse, such as being snagged in the baggage conveyor or run-over by a tractor. The bag is a flimsy piece of crap if the wheels and a foot are going to be that screwed-up on its first trip.

  36. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Luggage is a wear and tear item…granted, this one got all it’s wear and tear in one trip, but that’s kind of the breaks. $100 offered is $100 more than *any* airline is obligated to give you.

    But I wanted to try to help with one other thing here, and I’ve talked about this before on this site…but it’s an important thing for travelers to understand.

    Having worked at a company that worked with a lot of airlines and their baggage and cargo operations, I have a lot more awareness of how things actually work than the average person. The *vast* majority of the time, when there’s a problem with your luggage, it’s got nothing to do with the airline you flew on. The problem is the airports. And as this article notes, Midway is a good one to lose luggage in.

    The airlines only control a certain portion of the luggage handling process…primarily, check-in, putting it on the plane, and taking it off the plane. There’s a lot that happens that’s outside their control, and is managed by the airport you happen to be at. Transfer points, warehouses, security checks, etc. are managed by the airport – the airlines have no control over those processes. And Dog help you if you’re flying a trip that involves more than one airline – interline luggage transfers are the worst…and they’re managed via facilities, processes, and personnel who work for the airport.

    The vast majority of the time, the airport is the party responsible for losing/delaying/damaging your luggage. But to you, as a consumer, all you “see” is the airline – so you blame them. For sure, maybe the luggage problem you had was the airline’s fault…and they can fix that. But they can’t fix all the wonkiness at each airport, which is out of their hands.

    The kicker is that the airports DON’T CARE. They know that you’re not going to blame the airport for your luggage problems…even though they are probably the ones at fault. They know the airlines are going to take the heat, because that’s all the consumer knows to do. They also know that they effectively have monopolies in their areas…if MSP consistently loses your luggage, are you honestly going to drive to Sioux Falls, Duluth, or maybe Madison to fly from instead? So, the airports haven’t got the slightest impetus to fix their problems. They don’t take the heat, and they’re not going to lose any business.

  37. Bitingback says:

    First off, I would never pick an airline to travel on based on the Consumerist. I go with what is cheap or go with companies I have airline miles with. It comes across that the OP is naive when it comes to travel.

    Second, the best thing that anyone who travels can do is to learn how to travel with a carry-on sized bag. You are in control of your stuff that way. There is no TSA or handler pilfering, no loss of luggage or threat of damage. You also don’t have to wait around for another half hour at a baggage carousel!

    Third, there is an assumption that the suitcase wasn’t defective in the first place. I would try to return it. Decent luggage should be able to withstand a lot of abuse. I purchased an Eagle Creek carry-on that seemed like a rather steep purchase for $225 over 10 years ago. It took me through four European countries that included multiple means of transportation. About 5 years ago, the fabric coating inside one of the pockets started to degrade and they replaced the entire suitcase for free (minus shipping to the facility). Bottom line, you get what you pay for. A wise consumer would purchase from companies that have stellar warranties and from stores that have fair return policies.

  38. ogremustcrush says:

    I thought this was standard policy for all airlines. I’ve always used really cheap crappy suitcases just for this purpose, no reason to buy something nice when the airlines just going to destroy it anyway.

  39. majortom1981 says:

    Unless I am wrong once southwest puts your luggage on the conveyor belt its usually airport employees that handle it right?

    Also since the baggage handler said this always happens in chicago it would be the airports fault not southwests right?

  40. wickedpixel says:

    Many homeowners insurance policies will cover damaged luggage.

  41. inniskillin says:

    In 2007, I flew from Chicago to San Francisco for a summer job. I had a large red rolling duffel bag with most of my stuff in it. When I got to SF and retrieved the bag, it had two not-small tears in in and some stains on it. I went to check with United staff to see what the policy was (the bag would have been unusable unless repaired, as one of the tears was large enough that my clothes could easily fall out). Shockingly (to me), they showed me a laminated sheet with several pictures of luggage on it, then they opened a back room where they had luggage in all the normal shapes and sizes (no, it wasn’t lost suitcases – they had tags). They got out a brand new red rolling duffel bag, I repacked my stuff in it, and they kept the torn bag. This is 100% true, but even as I tell it, I realize how crazy it sounds.

  42. almightytora says:

    If the OP is not going to use that $100 voucher, I’ll gladly use it for them.

  43. Bernd says:

    “Sure, you don’t have to pay to check your luggage on Southwest. Tara tells Consumerist that after her new suitcase was stained and broken while in Southwest’s hands, and she’d rather pay to check a bag that survives the trip intact.”

    I realize it’s just a lede, but think about the attitude you’re promoting here. Is Southwest’s baggage carrying service somehow worse because it’s free? You’re implying that the reason things went wrong here is not that there’s simply a certain percentage of baggage pieces where things go wrong, but rather because paid baggage service is somehow superior. It’s not. It’s the same service that used to be free everywhere, and you shouldn’t be faulting Southwest for keeping it that way.

  44. John B says:

    the wheels could have been damaged by the driver who delivered her bag, too

    It’s the airline’s responsibility to deliver the bag to the customer. They’re liable for any damage up to that point in time

  45. Voodoopunk says:

    I can understand the frustration with an airline that doesn’t take responsibility for destroying your baggage. However, I can assure you that paying for an airline to check your bags doesn’t mean that they will do a better job getting your bags to your destination on time and in one piece. I’m forced to fly airlines other than southwest to get to my second work location and have had them lose or damage my bags 6 out of the last 7 times I’ve flown. Southwest is still the best option if they’re flying where you need to go.