It’s not true that an airline has 24 hours to return that missing bag before it has to compensate you. According to the DOT, if you reach your destination and your bag doesn’t, the airline has to reimburse you on the spot for items you need immediately. If someone challenges your source, cite the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Part 254. And if the bag is truly “lost” (permanently gone), rather than “delayed” (temporarily gone), the airline must also refund any baggage fees you were charged for that suitcase.
That’s a paragraph from a New Year’s message titled “Travel Secrets” that I received this week at work from American Express Travel. It seems to dispute a long held belief that US based airlines have 24 hours to return your missing bags before they have to fully compensate you, instead requiring immediate payment by the airline. I decided to do some research on Title 14, Part 254 and found the following:
On any flight segment using large aircraft, or on any flight segment that is included on the same ticket as another flight segment that uses large aircraft, an air carrier shall not limit its liability for provable direct or consequential damages resulting from the disappearance of, damage to, or delay in delivery of a passenger’s personal property, including baggage, in its custody to an amount less than $3,300 for each passenger at the time of reporting. Large aircraft means any aircraft designed to have a maximum passenger capacity of more than 60 seats.
Interesting… Airlines normally provide a small compensation payout the first day/night that you are without your luggage to help obtain any necessities that you might need for the first 24-48 hours. However, I guess you could site this DOT clause if you didn’t’ want to wait, though I foresee a lot of fighting on the airline’s part until they can confirm that your bag is actually permanently lost…especially if they are going to be paying out a significant amount.
Have you ever invoked this immediate payment clause? What happened and with which airline?
Update 1/6/14 – Thanks to reader Jim, we now have some clarification regarding the timeliness of the reimbursement and whether individual airline policies violate the spirit of the regulation. Here is the source document found by Jim – http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/Notice.Expense.Reimburse.final.pdf. It’s also been confirmed that AMEX Travel’s source for the newsletter was Fox News. Thanks to Reader Hua, please see Seven Travel Secrets of Experienced Fliers: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/04/10/seven-travel-secrets-experienced-fliers/.