Nation/World

Government wants airlines to refund fees for lost bags

Currently, only two companies offer credit; none pays cash

NEW YORK – You’ve already paid $15, $20, even $35 to check your bag on a flight. Then the airline misplaces it. You don’t even get your money back.

The government wants to change that, tackling two of the biggest complaints about the air travel industry – poor service and the explosion of fees – at once. Major airlines, which collect $3.3 billion in bag fees each year, are opposed.

The airlines charge $15 to $35 to check a bag, $20 to $45 to check a second and more beyond that. Most airlines won’t provide a refund, even if it takes days to return a passenger’s suitcase. They say the rule would raise prices for everyone.

“I am going to pay you $25 to deliver my bag to X destination, it should be there waiting,” says Joseph S. Rosenberg of Roanoke, Va., who had to buy a suit at the last minute this week after an airline lost his bag on a flight to a business meeting.

“They should return the fee for failure of service,” says Rosenberg, whose luggage arrived after his meeting.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has implemented a series of rules aimed at protecting passengers. Last year, the government limited how long passengers can sit on planes during ground delays to three hours.

Now the Transportation Department wants to make airlines pay passengers more when they’re bumped off their flight, allow passengers to cancel reservations within 24 hours of booking with no penalty, and require better disclosure of fees and surcharges.

Under existing rules, if luggage is never found or is damaged, passengers can ask for a fee refund as part of their lost-property claim. But if a bag is simply delayed, a passenger is out of luck.

Two airlines provide a credit – although not a cash refund. Alaska Airlines offers a $20 credit for future travel or 2,000 frequent flier miles if luggage is not at the claim area 20 minutes after the plane parks at the gate. Delta gives a $25 credit for each bag if it doesn’t arrive within 12 hours. Both airlines require a claim form.

Airlines prefer handing out vouchers instead of cash. The credits mean that a passenger will either bring them additional business or just never redeem the voucher, costing the airline nothing. Airlines often offer vouchers when they look for volunteers to give up seats on overbooked flights.

U.S. airlines lose bags at about half the rate they did in 2007, before the implementation of checked luggage fees. People are carrying on their bags, making the airlines’ job easier. Still, last year, more than 2 million bags didn’t arrive on the same flight as their owner.

“Passengers are paying $25 to have their bags carried but they aren’t getting any better service. The airlines are just using it as a way to increase revenue,” says Nick Gates, who oversees baggage products for SITA, an aviation technology provider.

The new DOT rule would require airlines to refund the fee if a bag is lost or not delivered in a “timely” manner. Exactly what “timely” means is yet to be determined. When the DOT asked for public comment, one suggestion was that a bag be considered late if it isn’t delivered within two hours of the passenger’s arrival.

The government will release details of the rule later this month but has yet to say when it would go into effect.

The Air Transport Association of America, which represents most of the major airlines, told the DOT that whether to charge baggage fees – and whether to refund them – is a competitive point best left to the marketplace. Automatic refunds, the group says, will increase costs and lead to higher prices for all passengers.



There are two comments on this story »



Blogs

Parting Shot — 7.28.16

Singer Carole King, a long-time resident of Idaho, performs during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia earlier today. King, whose hits include "You've Got A Friend," ...


Idaho Rep. Labrador is 6th-poorest member of Congress

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador is the sixth-poorest member of Congress, according to a comparison by InsideGov.com, with an average net worth, based on his federal financial disclosures, of minus $216,000. ...


Top 21 reasons some here love hot weather

21. California envy. 20. Water recreation. 19. Mental illness. 18. Conducive to frolicsome attire. 17. "I feel the need, the need for chlorine." 16. Have AC and enjoy cranking it ...




Saving for the future

sponsored According to two 2015 surveys, 62 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to handle an unexpected emergency, much less any long-term plans.



Sections


Profile

Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801
Newsroom:
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile