Airlines should repay fees for lost luggage

Published 3:27 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

Airline passengers would get their baggage fees refunded when their luggage is lost or delayed, if the Department of Transportation implements a proposed rule change, and that’s reasonable.

A lost bag costs travelers time and often money — they might have to buy clothing and other items. And it’s hard to see how an airline can justify keeping money for bags it fails to deliver on time.

Not surprisingly, airlines are objecting. They say that being forced to pay refunds on lost or delayed bags will result in increased costs that will be passed on to all passengers. About 2 million bags didn’t arrive on the same flight as their owners last year.

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But airlines are no doubt more concerned about keeping the $3.3 billion in baggage fees collected every year. Surely they ought to be expected to provide something in exchange for that money.

Given the proliferation of fees that airlines have been imposing, it wouldn’t be surprising if they tried to charge people another fee when their luggage goes astray — call it a baggage storage fee. Or make the bag pay for its unscheduled flight.

The DOT should stand firm on behalf of passengers and implement this change.