Report: TSA Paid Out $3M In The Last 5 Years For Lost, Stolen And Damaged Baggage

If you’ve ever had your checked luggage stolen, damaged, lost or otherwise mishandled while flying, you probably know you’re not alone. But what you might not know is how often the Transportation Security Administration actually admits wrongdoing and compensates unhappy travelers in those cases. Enlightenment is here: A new report says the TSA has forked over about $3 million in the last five years for such claims.

Whether their luggage grew legs and walked off on its own or was otherwise misplaced, or had pieces missing by the time they got it back, USAToday (warning: link has video that auto-plays) reports that TSA first investigated to determine whether its security screeners were responsible.

The agency then approved or settled with passengers in around 15,000 cases, which amounts to almost one out of three claims filed between 2010 and 2014. Some travelers walked away with a couple dollars for missing food (yes, people steal food out of bags, apparently) or medicine, while others received thousands of dollars for jewelry, electronics or other pricy items passengers said were damaged or vanished while in TSA care.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York had the most paid claims at 857, with Los Angeles International following close behind with 791. Those numbers are higher than others due to the millions of passengers who are screened by the TSA there.

Passengers who filed claims and got paid the most went through Dulles International in Washington and Orlando International in that time period.

Smaller airports weren’t necessarily any better at not mucking things up: TSA approved 120 passengers’ claims in five years just at Reno/Tahoe International, which ranked around the same level as larger airports like Chicago Midway.

TSA says approved claims are only a small part of a bigger picture, with 2.5 million pieces of baggage getting screened by its agents daily. The agency has a zero-tolerance policy to theft, it says, and has tightened hiring requirements for screeners to curb claims. As anyone who reads this site knows, there have been many cases of thieving TSA agents, but USAToday’s investigation found that claims filed and paid are down about 35% from 2010 to 2014.

“TSA aggressively investigates all allegations of misconduct and, when infractions are discovered, moves swiftly to hold the offenders accountable,” said Bruce Anderson, a TSA spokesman. “TSA holds its security officers to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero-tolerance policy for theft in the workplace.”

Still, critics say $3 million is a lot of money to settle claims that shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

“Congress has been having problems getting straight answers about abuses at the TSA,” U.S. Rep. John Mica told USAToday. “Orlando, my major home airport in Florida… has startling statistics. It warrants further review, even a subpoena for the information if that’s what it takes.”

If you notice damage or find something missing, and think it happened while in TSA hands, the best thing to do is file a claim form online. Be prepared to provide proof of the damage, the cost of that damage or theft, and TSA’s negligence.

You can also file claims with airlines or airports as well, if you can’t figure out exactly who might’ve caused the damage or caused your baggage to disappear into the ether.

USAToday has more information on how TSA is trying to step up its game, as well as a handy interactive lookup tool for travelers to check how many claims the agency paid out at their airports.

Lost, stolen, broken: TSA pays millions for bag claims, USA TODAY investigation finds [USAToday]