The Worst Thing about a Checked-Bag? It's Not the Fee

The following scene played out March 15 at a baggage carousel in Los Angeles International’s Terminal 7, but it could have happened anywhere, anytime.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

  • Newly arrived passenger: “It took me at least 10 minutes to get off the plane. How long is it going to take for my bag to turn up? We must have been standing here half an hour already!”
  • Annoyed loved one meeting passenger: “And now you know why I always travel with a carry-on.”

Sure, the $25 one-way fee for a first checked-bag is annoying. So is the fee for a second bag, and forget about the out-of-sight overweight charges. But the most annoying thing about all this? The wait at the carousel. At least, that’s what we hear – anecdotal evidence from numerous travelers.

Airline Baggage Fee Chart

No Guarantees – Except for Alaska

We are aware of no guarantees that a bag will slide down the chute and onto the baggage carousel in a timely fashion, with one exception: Alaska Airlines says if a bag doesn’t get there within 20 minutes of the plane parking at the gate, you are entitled to a $25 voucher good for future flights. However, as with most freebies, there is some fine print involved so read the voucher carefully before you attempt to redeem it.

What to Do if Bag Doesn’t Turn Up

Only a very tiny percentage of lost bags are lost for good. Most turn up in a couple of hours or a few days. If the bag is lost or delayed for some time, contact the airline – and do so before you leave the airport. More on bag fee rights from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • Expenses: You are entitled to reasonable reimbursement for expenses you incur while waiting for the delayed bag, such as the purchase of toiletries and a change of underwear.
  • Refund: If your flight is canceled or diverted or experiences a lengthy delay and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets – and for any bag fee that you paid.
  • NOTE: In most cases, bag fee refunds don’t just happen; you must be pro-active and request them. As American Airlines plainly states on its website, bag fee refunds “will not be initiated automatically.”

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Published: March 17, 2014