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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


DOT warns airlines: Pay for lost bags

CHICAGO — Chalk one up for consumers in the push-and-pull with the airline industry: The Department of Transportation is warning airlines that they will be punished if they don’t compensate passengers whose bags were lost or delayed.

DOT rules regulate that airlines cover — up to $3,300 — expenses consumers are forced to make should they find themselves without their bags. The amount is meant to help pay for replacement clothing, shoes and accessories, but it also includes costs for everyday needs like toothbrushes, shampoo and skin-care cleansers.

But many carriers have in recent months reimbursed passengers only for necessities that were purchased more than 24 hours after arrival on the premise that the bag could be located and delivered within that time. What’s more, carriers are limiting the payback only on the outbound leg of the trip.

That would mean a passenger whose bag was lost on a flight from Chicago to New York would have to wait a full day from landing before purchasing mouthwash and a suit for the “”big meeting”” that next day — if a refund was expected.

“”Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines,”” U.S. Transportation SecretaryRay LaHoodsaid.

Bothersome too to DOT was that many U.S. airlines — including the legacy carriers — are only covering those expenses if the baggage is misplaced on the outbound flight. So the passenger flying back to Chicago wouldn’t get refunded because he was presumably at home, where everything he needed would be there.

“”We didn’t find that fair,”” said DOT spokesmanBill Mosley.

Mosley said DOT began scrutinizing airlines policies when it found a number of violations, including the rules for mishandled baggage, by Spirit Airlines two months ago. The deep-discount carrier was fined $375,000 Sept. 17 for all the violations in what was the largest fine for a consumer-protection violation.

Mosley said the regulations have been on the DOT books for decades — though the reimbursement amount was only $1,250 until it was upped substantially and tied to cost-of-living adjustments every two years. The Aviation Enforcement Office will monitor carriers’ compliance and take enforcement action if necessary after 90 days, DOT said.

The DOT warning to airlines comes amid renewed enthusiasm with a 10-year movement to get a proposed Airlines Passengers’ Bill of Rights law passed in Congress that would penalize airlines for lapses such as these and others including multi-hour tarmac delays, procedures for responding to passenger complains and compensation — at 150 percent of the ticket price — for passengers who have been bumped or delayed because of flight cancellations or postponements.

Passengers with complaints about air travel experiences can contact DOT at 202-366-2220 or through the Web site at


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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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