According to federal regulations, airlines “shall not limit its liability for provable direct or consequential damages” to less than $3,300 per passenger. Someone should have told that to Delta, which was recently slapped with a $100,000 fine by the Dept. of Transportation for distributing pamphlets telling customers something very different.
Last October, the DOT’s Enforcement Office sent out an advisory notice to carriers warning them that they would pursue any airlines who didn’t correct their unlawful reimbursement policies withing 90 days. Someone at Delta apparently missed the memo.
From the DOT’s statement on the Delta fines:
For a period of time well after January 2010, Delta distributed a pamphlet to consumers through select airport stations entitled Baggage Information that purported to limit Delta’s liability for passenger expenses incurred due to delay of baggage to a level below the minimum set in Part 254. The pamphlet stated that Delta “will not authorize any expense reimbursement” when a passenger’s delayed baggage is expected to reach the passenger within 24 hours. The pamphlet also stated that the carrier’s liability is capped at “USD 25 per day for necessities after the first 24 hours up to a maximum of USD 125 per ticketed customer” while a passenger is away from his or her permanent residence. The Enforcement Office believes that passengers who read the pamphlet may have been dissuaded from seeking reimbursement to which they were entitled. Moreover, in a number of instances in which passengers whose bags were delayed sought reimbursement, Delta applied the exclusions and limitations set forth in the pamphlet.
The Enforcement Office concluded that Delta “engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices and unfair methods of competition” by distributing these misleading pamphlets.
According to travel writer Chris Elliott, Delta’s explanation for the screw-up is that some airport stations were remiss in destroying outdated brochures:
Delta asserts that it had updated its baggage policy disclosures in its relevant informational pamphlets, distributed them to the field, and instructed all stations to substitute the new pamphlets by the January deadline established by the Department’s guidance on this subject.
Delta further instructed its stations to destroy the outdated pamphlets. Delta states that any distribution of outdated pamphlets or application of a flat per diem cap in the processing of a baggage claim violated Delta policy, and affected only a tiny fraction of the millions of passengers served by Delta.
Delta fined $100,000 for misleading baggage brochure [Elliott.org]