NEW YORK - You've already paid $15, $20, even $35 to check your bag on a flight. Then the airline loses 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 for the third and beyond. Most airlines won’t provide a refund, even if it takes days to return a passenger’s suitcase. They say that 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.
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. 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 that doesn’t arrive within 12 hours.
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.