Airlines Can be Held Liable for Damaged Bag Handles and Wheels

If you assume airlines will compensate you for all damage done to a bag, you may be surprised to learn the U.S. Department of Transportation felt it necessary to “remind” airlines what they’re liable for.

Airlines and Damaged Bags

According to a Nov. 25 DOT notice, 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.

Not all airlines know this, it seems; a few days after the notice came out, we found the following statement on a major carrier’s website: “[The airline] assumes no responsibility for damage to or loss of protruding baggage parts such as wheels, straps, pockets, pull handles, hanger hooks or other items attached to the baggage.”

Presumably the airline will change this passage; in the meantime, travelers who need to report damage might be wise to cite the DOT notice.

What prompted the notice in the first place? DOT airline inspections at 16 U.S. airports over a two week period in September.

Airlines and Damage Reports

The DOT also reminds airlines of the “obligation to accept all reports of mishandled baggage” even if the airline rep doesn’t believe the airline was at fault. Apparently some airlines were simply not accepting such reports. Again, if you have trouble, cite the DOT.

Still having a problem? How to file a complaint.

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Published: December 3, 2015