July 19. Air travel has been rocky this summer and baggage problems factor among many other issues for travelers like flight cancellations and delays.
Nearly 220,000 bags were “mishandled” by U.S. airlines in April 2022, meaning they were lost, damaged, delayed or stolen, according to the most recent data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If your bag is declared lost: The airline must compensate you for the bag’s contents, subject to depreciation, up to a preset maximum. That maximum liability is $3,800 for domestic flights and about $1,800 for international flights, according to the Transportation Department. (Airlines can pay more but aren’t required to.) The carrier must also refund any fees paid for checking the bag. Airlines are also on the hook for up to another $20,000 for a lost or damaged “assistive device” for a traveler’s disability, including crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, hearing aids or prosthetics, for example.
If your bag is delayed: Those maximum liability limits also apply to delayed bags. Payment to travelers may include out-of-pocket costs for additional clothing or other purchases they make out of necessity due to the delay. These are called “reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses” incurred while a bag is delayed. Airlines aren’t allowed to set a daily cap for these interim expenses (up to $50 a day, as an example).