But it does sound like the fly guys are playing fast and loose with your hard earned cash The government is now asking airlines to refund baggage fees whenever your luggage doesn't arrive in a "timely manner". Sounds fair to me. When you pay to have a bag shipped you expect it to arrive with you. Sometimes "mishandled" luggage doesn't turn up for days or weeks. The Air Transport Association of America, the industry group that represents most major airlines, claims automatic refunds for delayed bags will increase costs and lead to higher prices for passengers. Can you hear it? It's the unmistakably grating sound of of bad PR.
Full disclosure: a major US carrier once sent my luggage to Idontknowwhere, USA- leaving me on a Caribbean cruise ship dressed in slacks, loafers and a sports coat. The cruise line gave me flip flops from the spa, a couple of T-shirts, and that's what I had to wear for 3 days.
Almost all the airlines charge $15, $20, $25 or more for each piece of luggage you check. If you get to your destination and your bag does not- most airlines will not issue a refund- although a few will give you a "credit".
According the the FAA's web site, US airlines mishandled more than 138,000 bags in February. Just for fun, let's say all 138,000 bags were misplaced- meaning that they'll show up eventually. Assuming the airlines charged just $15 per bag- that's $2,070,000. Spread over an entire year that's a bit under $25 million.
You could argue that the no refund policy makes airlines look a little greedy- and a little anxious to "stick it" to their customers. Remember, these are the people who've brought us flight delays, overbooked planes, passengers trapped on the tarmac for hours and let's not forget full body scans.
Hey airline industry- do you have any idea how much it costs for a national ad campaign? It's a lot. Here are some of the headlines from the "No Luggage, No Refund" stories that are making the rounds.
The Seattle Times:Air travelers might finally catch a break
Bloomberg Business Week: Gov't wants airlines to repay fee after losing bag
Philadelphia Inquirer: Refunds proposed for delayed baggage
Washington Post: Airline lose your suitcase? Government says you should get your checked-bag fee back
Detroit Free Press: New rule could require airlines to refund bag fee if luggage is lost
Know what all those news stories have in common? They all give the appearance that the airline industry thinks it's okay to charge for a service and then not deliver. Even better, all those stories suggest that the airline industry is essentially refusing to do the right thing. I'm betting that if you had to pay for all of this negative publicity it would cost a lot more than $25 million. But I hear the major airlines will earn $5 billion dollars this year- so they must know what they're doing...
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