Your Travel Rights: The New Rules for Airline Baggage
by John Hawks
The good news about delayed airline luggage is that, more than 98 percent of the time, it eventually shows up (usually, within 24 hours of the initial delay). As soon as it’s obvious that no more bags are coming off the carousel in the baggage claim area, your clients should go immediately to the airline baggage office. (If they’ve flown on more than on airline that day, they should go to the airline that operated their last flight.) They should always collect a claims form or receipt from the airline with details on how to check back (via phone or the Internet) on the progress of the missing bags.
If your clients’ bags are delayed for several days, it’s increasingly unlikely these days that the airline will agree to reimburse them for new clothing or other interim expenses — at least, not without a fight. (Remember: Travel insurance makes perfect sense to avoid these problems!)
Remind your clients that they should always inspect their luggage when it comes off the baggage carousels. If they spot any significant damage, they should file a claim immediately with the airline baggage office inside the airport. (The airline rep will usually insist on seeing the damage firsthand.)
If the airline declares that your clients’ luggage is lost, they must file a written claim for damages that may be different than the initial missing baggage report. On domestic U.S. flights, the airline baggage liability limit increased effective March 1, 2007, to $3,000 per passenger. For international flights, the limit is based on a new formula called “special drawing rights” (SDRs) governed by the International Monetary Fund. Right now, the limit is 1,000 SDRs, with the value of an SDR changing daily like currency (it’s set currently at about $1.51 per SDR, so the limit is around $1,510). Previously, the limit was set at $9.07 per pound in the baggage weight. Your clients may be asked to produce receipts if possible for more expensive items claimed as lost contents, and most airlines have included in their ticket fine print a long list of excluded items that are not covered for reimbursement (from antiques to electronics).
General Baggage Tips
Before you pack your bags, spread out the contents on your bed or the floor and take pictures with your digital camera. Those photos will help you document the contents without forcing you to write down an itemized list of everything — and, they’ll serve as handy evidence if you must file a claim later.
Never pack anything in your checked suitcases that you can’t stand to lose. That includes electronics, jewelry, medicine, and other valuables.
As you check your bags for the first flight, watch the airline agent to make sure the proper city codes and tags are placed on the correct bags. You’d be surprised how often a simple mix-up in stickers can send your bags halfway around the world!
And, the best advice of all? Purchase travel insurance!