Crackdown on airline's lost baggage

October 15, 2009 2:10:49 PM PDT
Flying can be frustrating. From delays, packed planes and canceled flights, it can be difficult to reach your destination. But baggage problems can be just as painful, and now some airlines are coming under fire for the way they handle baggage issues. Many airlines have started charging passengers for their baggage, and now they want to pay less than they should when they lose luggage.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has now issued a warning to the airlines saying it will fine carriers in 90 days if they continue to have violations.

"They're trying to just increase fares everywhere they can, and it's just not fair," airline passenger John Carmichael said. "We probably demand better service than that."

For John Carmichael and his wife, who flew into LaGuardia Thursday, there was that sinking feeling of looking and looking for their bags on the conveyer belt and thinking those bags were lost.

"This is crazy," he said. "I just spoke, saying we demand better service, and now this happens."

Here are some of the ways many major airlines have been breaking federal rules:

First, they're refusing to pay for incidentals until after 24 hours. Some airlines are capping expenses for lost bags at $25 or $ 50 a day, but it should be a case-by-case basis. Airlines are creating their own liability limits when, in fact, liability can't be less than $3,300 per passenger for replacement and incidentals.

One of the airlines with most of these violations was Spirit Airlines. Just last month, they were fined $375,000. The DOT also accused Spirit of only re-imbursing passengers for luggage lost on outbound flights, not the return flights.

Travel experts say it's important not to check valuables in your bags. Also, keep receipts for what you do check. Don't rule out small claims court. And mark your bag on the outside so it is easy to spot.

Turns out the Carmichaels were happy to learn that was their only problem today.

"I think I've learned a lesson now," John said. "Maybe tie a ribbon or another color luggage or something."

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