The DOT Thinks It Might Be Nice For You To Get Some Cash From Airlines For Delayed Bags

While instances of “mishandled baggage” are at the lowest levels for domestic airlines since 1987, when the Department of Transportation started tracking those numbers, the government seems to be flirting with the idea of making things even better for passengers. Perhaps with say, a little cash for a ridiculously delayed bag. All in favor say “heck, yeah!”

ABC News cites a June 14 report from the United States Government Accountability Office which says the agency is working on figuring out whether there should be rules to compensate travelers for luggage delayed for unreasonable lengths of time, and how it would go about regulating that.

One problem is that data from the DOT doesn’t differentiate between types of mishandled bags, so there’s no way to separate the lost bags from the delayed or damaged ones. The DOT requires airlines to hand over cash for lost bags, but not those that are simply delayed. A few airlines reimburse passengers with vouchers if a bag is delayed for more than 12 hours.

A June 14 report from the United States Government Accountability Office suggests exploring options for reimbursing airline passengers for bags that are “unreasonably” delayed.

There are three options on the table –Â keep current regulations, reimburse checked baggage fee if a bag is delayed or compensate travelers based on how long the bag was delayed.

As things stand now, the DOT requires airlines to compensate up to $3,300 for expenses incurred while bags are delayed and inform customers on how to file a complaint.

Getting your money back for a delayed bag is all well and good — but receiving only $25 for a bag delayed for days or weeks doesn’t seem to cut it. Currently, checked-bag fees are reimbursed for lost bags, but not delayed ones.

The last option would involve a standardized compensation scale related to how long it takes the airline to deliver a delayed bag, and would require the DOT to define “unreasonable delay.” It would also take into account what caused the delay — for example, a customer could have checked in late, which might result in the bag missing a flight.

*Thanks for the tip, Curt!

Delayed Bags Could Result in Airlien Reimbursements, Study Says [ABC News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. MutantMonkey says:

    Increased bag fees in 3… 2… 1…

    • voogru says:

      Nice to know that some people understand basic economics.

    • voogru says:

      I guess I should mention that airlines will actually make more money at this than they do now.

      They’ll charge everyone higher fees, either in ticket prices or baggage fees, but claims will probably be fairly low.

      • castlecraver says:

        How will claims remain low? The only reason claims are low now is that its so simple for the airlines to deny and disclaim them by the fine print in the CoC. Very little of what one might lose in their luggage is reimbursable, and the onus is always on the passenger to substantiate the cost. Failing that, they can always just blame it on the TSA.

        I don’t doubt that fees may increase as a result, but it’s also yet another indicator that bag fees up until now have just been a bald-faced money grab. Holding the fee-supported “service” to a basic set of standards shouldn’t increase their overall costs if transporting folks’ bags reliably was ever really a priority.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          No, claims are low b/c people are taking carry-ons instead of paying the checked bag fee.

    • O2C says:

      Easy fix — make the delayed bag fee $25 for every six hours delayed or the checked bag fee, which ever is greater. That would be a fee of $100 for every day delayed or 4x the checked bag fee.

    • A.Mercer says:

      Actually, with or without this

      Increase bag fees in 3…2…1…

  2. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i like the “hit them in the wallet” mentality for this. perhaps it will be a better motivator to not mess up. suitcases aren’t small things, easy to misplace. if you drop one off the cart, it’s pretty obvious that something fell. i’m a little more understanding about the bag getting loaded on the wrong flight, but i’m still not sure how that happens with scannable barcoded tags

    • mckindley says:

      The barcode scanner simply creates a log of which flight the bag has been loaded on. Oftentimes the scanners make no error message if the bag is loaded on the wrong flight. The only time I ever got an error message from a bag scanner is when I had a bag that had been rerouted from another airline, and the scanner freaked out because the barcode was foreign.

      • Browsing says:

        Is that like my SYD to JFK flight that I picked up in LAX and then dropped in the the International/JFK/All other airports ended up in TORONTO and then got delivered at my parents a 25 hour4s later (at 1 am I had no sign for deliver if they could not give me in between 8 and 5) I am so happy to now buy my tickets and have EU rules enforceable…

        • who? says:

          *Every* time I’ve gone through customs at LAX, my bag hasn’t made it onto my connecting flight.

          Every. Single. Damn. Time.

          I know it’s a big airport, but I can make it to another terminal and get to my connecting flight on time. Why can’t my bag?

          • Amp says:

            *You* care about getting on your next flight. The people chucking hundreds of bags at a time…. Don’t. :

  3. CrazyEyed says:

    In an era where nearly every airline will be charging fees for checked baggage, you’d be damn sure I’d be flipping a shit after I paid them to lose my baggage.

  4. kella says:

    For bags delayed more than 6 hours, charge:
    – Costs to the customer (e.g. if they had to buy new clothes)
    – The baggage fee times 5

    So, if the airline doesn’t charge a baggage fee, then they pay only costs. Otherwise, since the airline failed to deliver their “premium” service, they’re charged punitive damages.

    Also, Southwest needs to do another public offering, I want to give them money to expand their business and hope they push airlines that charge baggage fees out of business.

    • Blackadar says:

      Love it. Great idea.

    • gman863 says:


      I doubt Southwest will ever issue more stock. One of the keys to their profitability is that they research the profit potential of new cities carefully before adding service. Another is thay often have lower overhead and gate fees by flying into an older (HOU instead of IAH, Midway instead of O’Hare, etc.) or slightly out-of-the way (Ft. Lauderdale versus Miami) airport. Some airports (such as Panama City Beach) even subsidize Southwest flights to generate more tourist revenue.

      Southwest’s next big push is going to be service to Latin America. They’re building a new International terminal at HOU and expect to start Latin America service in a few years.

      • AEN says:

        Once Southwest bought AirTran, AirTran’s prices went up (and AirTran charges a baggage fee). Not too impressed with Southwest.

    • Browsing says:

      May I give a shout out to Eastern Way back When…One time we went to Florida for a family vacation and not having a ton of luggage back then (a kid-full price) and the aduts bags. Somehow we left my dags bag, not being very big we realized it was at home when we were at the airport, Eastern back then let my grandpa drive back, pick up the bag, check it back it in and they delivered it to my cousin’s house the next day, now now coming from a family family, THAT’S Why we fly

    • Jevia says:

      On a flight I took to Europe earlier in the year, when my bag was delayed more than 12 hours, they reimbursed me 50% of all needed purchases. That included clothes, shoes, toiletries. There was no complaining of how much I spent, or what I sought reimbursement for, they did a straight 50% of the receipts I submitted.

      Now, I only submitted receipts for 1 whole set of clothes (from underwear to shoes), and some bathroom toiletries (which included a moderately priced perfumed soap, lotion, and cologne set). I suppose they might have questioned if I tried to get reimbursed for some expensive perfume, or more than one set of clothes (as my bag was only delayed one day), but I don’t know. I didn’t buy cheap (as I needed the clothes for a business meeting), but not outrageously expensive either. Afterall, I did have to pay for them in the first place.

      I would expect that if US airlines are required to reimburse for costs, there would be a lot more examination of the receipts and complaining about “unnecessary” or “expensive” purchases.

  5. BigHeadEd says:

    Got to be the worst job in the world dealing with irate folks who’ve had their bags lost and you had nothing to do with it.

  6. highfructosepornsyrup says:

    If the bag is delayed or lost at all, you should get a refund of the baggage fee, with higher and higher penalties based on how bad a job they did in getting your stuff to you.

  7. speaky2k says:

    The last time I had a delayed bag it was a pain to just try and have it delivered to my house, and this was from SouthWest who are usually really good at service. I got to the airport about 3hr early for my flight, and found out it was going to be delayed at least 3 hours. I went to the check-in counter and got switched to an earlier flight, one leaving in about 1 hour, with assurance that my bag would make it no problem. I get thought security and to my plane in plenty of time and safely make it to my destination. Then I wait for all the bags, but don’t get mine. I go to the little office and they say that it is probably going to be coming in on the next flight (my original flight) and I can either wait for that flight (6hrs) or come by the next day to pick it up. And since I switched flights, it was my fault my bag didn’t make it, so I would have to make arrangements to pick it up. After the 4th or 5th time explaining that I switched flights before my bag was checked they finally relented and agreed to deliver my bag the next day. Of course that delivery was another problem (according to them the truck broke down) so I didn’t get my bag until very late the next day.

  8. castlecraver says:

    There is no “reasonable delay” if the bag is checked in on time. Airlines have elaborate systems for scanning each ticketed passenger onto the plane, and they know how many bags each person checked. Each bag tag has a unique barcode. There is NO REASON they couldn’t scan bags as they’re loaded onto the plane and verify all the checked in passengers have their bags underneath.

    Obviously if people are paying fees specifically for the purpose of transporting their checked bags, those fees should be refunded in full if those bags aren’t returned to them promptly at their destination. End of.

    • reimero says:

      I can see a “reasonable delay” happening if there’s a last-minute change of some sort (i.e. I pay to move my flight to an earlier flight but my bag is already checked, or I am bumped voluntarily or involuntarily.) But other than that, no, there is no good reason for there to be a delay.

  9. reimero says:

    Getting bumped or moving your flight up at the airport can certainly complicate matters (I’ve had bags routed to the wrong airport in the past.) In general, though, I’d favor some basic, simple-to-follow rules:
    Luggage that is delayed because of a passenger-initiated switch the day of the flight gets no compensation unless the bag does not arrive the same day on a later flight.
    Luggage that is delayed but arrives later that same day results in the baggage fee being refunded in full to the passenger. If the airline has no baggage fees, there is no refund.
    If luggage does not arrive until the next day, the airline is on the hook for baggage fees plus $50, payable immediately (prepaid credit/debit card is OK), ostensibly to allow for basic toiletries and possibly a change of clothes.
    If it takes more than a day to retrieve the luggage, the airline is on the hook for baggage fees plus $200.
    If a week has passed and the luggage has still not been located, it is to be treated as lost luggage, even if the bag is subsequently located.

    To be honest, anything longer than “the next day the airline provides service to this region” is “unreasonable” in my book.

  10. homehome says:

    Yea, let’s make my flight fees even higher

    • who? says:

      So you’d rather have things broken the way they are now? Where airlines can do whatever the f*ck they want with your bag, and as long as they get it to you eventually, you don’t really have any recourse?

      Every single time I go through customs at LAX, my bag has gotten lost between LAX and home. Every. Single. Time. I have never once gotten home from a trip to Asia with my bag, regardless of airline.

      We’re paying the airlines to do a competent job. If they’re not doing that, they should be penalized. If they’re not charging enough to do a competent job, then they should charge more. Then things can be worked out in the marketplace. The carriers that can get both person and luggage from point A to point B cheaply and efficiently will win. Right now, the system is broken, and the carriers have no incentive to do their job properly.

      • homehome says:

        Even in the article they state that overall this is the lowest issues and problems ppl have with them and me personally, I have had my bag delayed, but never lost and if you’re expecting a bag to never get lost then you’re expecting the impossible. Sorry, it sucks, but s**** happens. The process for getting bags back and for lost bags, she be improved definitely, it should be less of a hassle to get things alright of course, but no matter how advance or great the system may be, problems are going to occur.

  11. chatterboxwriting says:

    I wish they would provide some sort of compensation for damaged bags. We bought a brand new suitcase before flying from JFK to Orlando. When we arrived in Orlando, we found that somehow, someone had jammed the pull-up handle that makes it possible to roll the suitcase on wheels. So now we can’t use the wheels at all, making the suitcase completely useless for long trips. It’s fine to take on a driving trip where we will have our car, but not one of our “take the bus to NY, get on the subway, find the JFK train, fly to another state, and then rent a car” trips.

  12. Levk says:

    If they going to charge us for the service they better not be delayed or mishandled that is why we pay for it, they want payment then it gets handle well and does not go missing if they loose it only right to pay for it since we paided them. It be like when all those other companys fuck up they have to pay so do airlines. Specially if they charging

  13. bar_foo says:

    I live in a small college town with a tiny airport serviced by little puddlejumpers. Around the start and end of the school year, with planeloads of students each bringing a year’s worth of stuff to or from school, there’s no way it will all fit in the cargo hold. So the airlines just put about half the luggage on a truck and drive it up–it will be delivered the next day (later the same day for early flights). Annoyed me the first time, but now I’m used to it.

    So what–and this is a serious question–would be the best policy in this situation? The little turboprop planes are not capable of carrying two large suitcases plus a carry-on for each passenger. They have a system in place now that works for most people. Most passengers are transferring from/to other flights, many from/to overseas destinations, so limiting everyone to one bag just because of this one short flight. If a fine like this were to be imposed for every delayed bag, the airlines would stop doing this, and maybe stop serving this route because it would be too expensive–or they’d raise fares because they knew they’d have to pay the fine for a large number of passengers. Who benefits from that?

    • Doubting thomas says:

      The solution is transparency. If the airline lets you know BEFORE you even purchase your ticket that only your carry on bag or 1 suitcase is going on the plane and the rest are being delivered by van then it is not an unreasonable delay. if they let you purchase the ticket and get to the airport, or even land and be waiting for your bag before they inform you then they deserve the fee.

  14. Sad Sam says:

    I would like the checked bag fee to be automatically refunded if a bag is delayed. I paid you to deliver a bag on time on the same flight I am on, if you fail, the fee should be refunded. I should not have to apply for it and then get some type of credit for some future flight that I’m unlikely to take.

    Give me a break, and yes Delta I’m talking about you and your sh*tty service. I did a charge back on that fee since you wouldn’t give it back to me after not delivering my bag and making me spend another 1/2 hour coming back to the airport to pick it up since you couldn’t promise you would deliver my bag that night.