There’s no way around it: luggage is expensive. And you really can’t fly without it. Which is why it’s not surprising that when someone checks a bag, there are probably two things they’re worried about (maybe more) the most: the possibility of a lost bag, and the possibility of a damaged bag.
Can you trust the airline you’re flying on to take care of your bag? Unfortunately, videos like this, where airline employees were filmed throwing customer bags across a concrete road, make it hard to do just that:
Thankfully, things are about to change for customers
You, the traveler, will soon have a much easier time being reimbursed by an airline if it damages your luggage while it is in their care. That’s because in late November the Department of Transportation issued a little memo to the airlines after they “uncovered the fact that certain airlines routinely exclude liability for damage to specific parts of checked baggage.”
Under current federal law, airlines “are required to compensate passengers for damage to wheels, straps, zippers, handles, and other protruding parts of checked baggage beyond normal wear and tear.” Bet you didn’t know that!
So, an airline is breaking federal law if it damages your checked luggage, and doesn’t compensate you for it. Raise your hand if that has happened to you.
I could have told the DOT that airlines were doing this when my girlfriend was trying to figure out how to get compensated for her damaged bag and couldn’t get anyone to take responsibility until Southwest gave her a voucher for $75.
What if the TSA checks your bag?
There are times when the TSA will “randomly” take control of your bag to open it up and rummage through the contents. Sadly, the press release that I linked to above doesn’t specifically say. But it sounds like the carrier will be held responsible for any and all outside damage done to your bag (beyond normal wear and tear) while it is in their control.
I’m sure airlines will try to find a loophole in the law at some point. But for now, you should be able to get compensated if there is damage done to your bag. In part, because the memo sent out by the DOT also told airlines that their agents are obligated to accept all reports of mishandled baggage, regardless of whether they think the airline is responsible or not (which leaves open the possibility of people taking advantage of the airlines).
If you’re still worried about damage, there are ways you can condense your packing into a carry-on. Airlines have until January 6th to implement any changes they may need to make to their checked baggage liability policies or they will face fines and/or possible DOT action. With that said, safe travels, and good luck!
-Packing Tips That Will Save you Money
-Your Baggage is Damaged. What now?
-Best way to fly Domestic: Widebody Flights