Entries in Baggage (2)


Delayed Bags Could Result in Airline Reimbursements, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Domestic airlines collectively made $3.36 billion in baggage fees in 2011, a slight decline from the year prior, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

And according to Thursday's release of the Department of Transportation's April 2012 data, the most recent available, the instances of "mishandled baggage" are at the lowest levels they've been since data started being collected in 1987.

But, what are air travelers' rights when a bag is delayed for days? The U.S. government is looking into it.

A June 14 report from the United States Government Accountability Office suggests exploring options for reimbursing airline passengers for bags that are "unreasonably" delayed.

However, DOT data, which the report relies on for its suggestions, does not distinguish in types of mishandled bags. So, a bag that is lost is lumped in with a bag that is delayed or damaged. Because of these limitations, the report reads, "an assessment of baggage delays ... cannot be conducted."

Currently, the DOT requires airlines to reimburse checked bag fees for lost bags, but not delayed bags. However, some airlines, such as Delta, reimburse fees in the form of a travel voucher for checked bags delayed more than 12 hours.

Option 1: Keep Current Regulations

The DOT requires airlines to "make every reasonable effort to return mishandled baggage within 24 hours." Airlines also must compensate $3,300 on domestic flights for reasonable expenses related to delayed baggage. (International compensation varies.) They also must inform customers how to file a complaint, acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 30 days and provide a "substantive response" within 60 days.

Option 2: Reimburse Checked Baggage Fee If Bag Is Delayed

Currently, a checked-bag fee is required to be reimbursed if a checked bag is lost, but not if the bag is delayed. The report referenced the DOT as stating that a delayed bag is similar to a delayed flight: Inconvenient for sure, but the service the passenger paid for -- in this case, transport of baggage -- was ultimately performed.

Option 3: Implement Compensation Standards Based on Length of Delay

This option would require a standardized compensation system based on the length of time it takes to deliver a delayed bag. It would also require the DOT to define what constitutes an "unreasonable delay" and would include the cause of delay and traveler circumstances.

This could be complicated because of a number of factors. Suppose the passenger checked in late, causing the bag to not make the flight? Other circumstances, such a mistagged baggage or a bag that was loaded onto a first flight but not a connecting flight would also need to be addressed.

In the section of the report that deals with implications of implementing minimum compensation standards, it's pointed out that this would require an administrative structure -- the cost of which would likely be passed onto customers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Baggage Battles': Airports Auction Lost, Misplaced and Forgotten Luggage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Ever wonder what happened to that piece of lost luggage that was never seen again? In some instances, the airport where it was left could have auctioned it off for profit.

One of the busiest hubs in the United States is Miami International Airport, where M-I-A isn't just the airport's call letters, but could easily stand for luggage that is "missing in action." The airport is home to an enormous graveyard of discarded duffel bags and carry-ons that have been cast aside. There are also forgotten bikes, laptops, surfboards, cameras, cellphones, even paintings and crutches -- all of which have gone unclaimed or don't carry identification.

"We take the time to make sure that we reconnect the item with the person if that's possible," said Miami International spokesman Marc Henderson. "But, you know, the airport is not a storage shelter. So after 60 days, it's like, OK, it's time to have an auction."

Last year, across the United States, nearly 2 million suitcases were reported to be either lost, damaged or delayed. About 10,000 bags go missing at Miami International alone every year.

To avoid losing your luggage, Henderson said it is as simple as keeping your bag with you at all times.

"I walk the terminal all the time. Traditionally on average one or two times a day, I will see a bag that is not attended," he said. "Somebody has walked away, have gone into a shop, they've gone into an eating establishment. They've left their bag there."

That's a "no-no," Henderson said, because of the heightened security at airports today. He also suggested not packing anything of significant value, or if you must, carry those items with you on the plane.

Miami International hosts a lost luggage auction twice a year to a standing room-only crowd who pays a $3 admission fee to get in on the bidding action. Most of the patrons are just regular folks who are looking to turn a quick profit.

Billy Leroy, who owns an eclectic props and antique store in New York City, was one of the bidders in Miami and is also one of the stars of the Travel Channel's new reality TV show, Baggage Battles, which airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The show follows three teams of savvy auction specialists who travel the world to place bets in high-stakes luggage auctions.

Dozens of these auctions happen at airports all over the country, with thousands of bags and millions of dollars at stake. Bidders can't open the unclaimed bags and have to rely on their instincts to place bets on what could be inside -- which could be anything from expensive jewelry or just laundry.

Only after bidders win the bags do they get to open them and find out if they have hit the jackpot.

"You've got to shoot from the hip and just vibe it," Leroy said of betting on the bags. "I mean, it sounds crazy but that's how I do it, that's how I make my business is by my gut feeling."

Faced with a mountain of luggage, bidders are given about an hour to pick up the bags, handle them and get a feel for what they might be carrying. Leroy also said he employs a "smell test," and said he won't bid on a bag that smells bad.

"Heavy is good, but carry-on is good too," Leroy said. "Expensive carry-on is good, and heavy, expensive carry-on is good, but heavy expensive carry-on could have dirty underwear in it."

But Leroy said that formula can sometimes backfire because an expensive-looking bag could be a fake.

Miami International has made as much as $100,000 in a single auction and it's not just off lost luggage bags. They also auction off singular items in bulk, where bidders can take bets on bags of jewelry or electronics that have been left at TSA checkpoints, or entire cargo loads of discarded items.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio