WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice today reminding airlines that they are required to compensate passengers for damage to wheels, straps, zippers, handles, and other protruding parts of checked baggage beyond normal wear and tear. The notice also reminds airlines of their obligation to accept all reports of mishandled baggage from consumers even if an airline’s agent believes the airline is not liable. This notice is a result of recent airport inspections which uncovered the fact that certain airlines routinely exclude liability for damage to specific parts of checked baggage.
“These inspections demonstrate the Department’s commitment to protecting consumers when they travel by air,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While we are proud of the progress we’ve made so far, we will continue to strengthen how we monitor and enforce compliance with air travel consumer protection and civil rights rules.”
The Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings discovered that certain airlines may be refusing to accept reports of such damage when it inspected U.S. and foreign airlines at 16 airports nationwide in a two week period in September 2015. The notice warns airlines to immediately review and revise their baggage policies to ensure compliance with the law. The Aviation Enforcement Office intends to take enforcement action against airlines that are not in compliance by January 9, 2016.
The airport inspections are part of the Department’s commitment to strong oversight of airlines’ compliance with Federal rules protecting the rights of air travelers. The nationwide inspections conducted in September ensure that frontline customer-facing airline employees, not just managers and executives, understand how the law requires airline agents to treat air travelers. The inspections have been helpful in determining whether airlines are treating consumers fairly and providing them the services to which they are entitled under the law.
The Aviation Enforcement Office is investigating a number of carriers based on information obtained during the airport inspections for potential violations of the Department’s consumer protection and civil rights requirements. Any enforcement action that results from these investigations will become public.