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By Martha C. White
December 2, 2015

Here’s a bit of good news for travelers taking flights during the holidays, or anytime for that matter. Airlines will actually have to reimburse you if their employees throw your bag across the tarmac or otherwise damage your luggage while it’s in their care, the Department of Transportation warned carriers recently.

The agency investigated foreign and domestic airlines at 16 different airports back in September and — just in time for people to start entrusting bags filled with holiday gifts to airline cargo personnel — issued a reminder last week that the airlines are responsible for paying for damage to “wheels, straps, zippers, handles, and other protruding parts” that occurs under the airline’s watch.

This doesn’t cover damage due to what the DOT considers normal wear and tear, but the notice makes it clear that many current airline baggage policies — in which carriers deny liability for damages and won’t even accept customer reports of mishandled baggage — won’t (ahem) fly.

“The inspections have been helpful in determining whether airlines are treating consumers fairly and providing them the services to which they are entitled under the law,” the DOT said in a statement. The upshot: If your damaged suitcase got that way because of the airline handling it, they’ll have to reimburse you.


Airlines that don’t bring their policies in line with the law and accept responsibility for damaged baggage by January 9 of next year will face enforcement action from the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office. The companies will have to make sure that their gate agents and other customer-facing employees know the rules and don’t turn away travelers who bring complaints of damaged luggage.

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