On Tuesday, May 27, the U.S. Department of Transportation stated that it will increase penalties for airlines that mishandle passengers’ baggage and overbook flights. Tim Devaney of The Hill reports that airlines that lose or damage baggage could owe the passenger up to $3,500. The new fine, scheduled to take effect in 90 days, is a $100 increase over the previous limit of $3,400.
According to the DOT, 1.8 million passengers filed mishandled baggage claims in 2013. However, less than 0.6 percent of those claims were for more than $3,400. The DOT still expects the fine increase to cost airlines, collectively, an additional $1 million each year.
The department will also hike penalties for airlines that deny passengers boarding due to overbooked flights. Travelers that are involuntarily denied boarding would be eligible to receive $675-$1,350 in reimbursement.
-Arrive at the airport early. If you’re checking in luggage, this gives your bag plenty of time to get through security screening and onto the tarmac. This also gives you a chance to check if the routing label correctly lists the final destination. Short layovers can increase the odds of losing a bag. If an inbound flight is late, baggage handlers have less time to transfer luggage from one airplane to the next.
-Embellish your bag. Bright belts, ribbons or other unique markers are one of the best ways to make sure your suitcase isn’t accidentally taken by someone else. Unusual decorations can also catch the eye of baggage handlers who otherwise may have left it on a baggage cart. Don’t forget to leave identification inside the bag as well. Include a copy of your itinerary and contact information in case the outside tag gets damaged. This way, the airline can still contact you.
-Purchase a tracking device. Companies such as Trakdot, LugLoc and PocketFinder all employ GPS technology and companion smartphone apps to help passengers keep track of their bags. Although they won’t prevent your bag from getting lost, the devices can help airlines find your belongings faster. The tracking devices cost $49.99-$129.95.
-Know your passenger rights. If your luggage is lost, file a report with the airline before you leave the airport. Make sure you receive a copy of the report, and note the name and phone number of the airline representative helping you. Also check if the bag will be delivered to you at no additional cost. Although airlines will reimburse passengers for lost bags, sometimes you may also receive money to buy necessary toiletries. Ask which items can be reimbursed and save your receipts.