As it turns out, airlines ARE liable for your luggage:

tl;dr – most of their attempts to sneak in their exclusion clauses are illegal, you can file complaints with the airline or the DOT to follow up, and can also take them to small claims court.

via The Consumerist by Ben Popken on 9/20/11


Many airlines have inserted “checked baggage limitations of liability” into their contracts which try to act like it’s not their fault if jewelry or gadgets somehow go missing during transit from your luggage. They’re bunkum.

Attorney Jonathan Harriman, who specializes in travel law, told Marketwatch that such caveats are actually illegal, by order of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “If they lose your luggage, the airline is liable for the actual value of whatever was in your bag, up to the maximum stated in the contract of carriage (usually $3,300).”

If they don’t live up to it, you can complain up the airplane ladder, and if that fails, file a report with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. Airlines try to keep their numbers down with the DOT and take seriously complaints referred there.

You can also take airlines to small claims court. Airlines try to scare you off with a “forum selection clause” which usually stipulates that you have to file in the city or country where the airline’s HQ is located. But since August 4th, the DOT has ruled these clauses are illegal and void and an airline can be sued anywhere it takes off and lands.

You’ve got rights, stretch their wings and let them fly!

4 secret rights that savvy air travelers know [Marketwatch] (Thanks to Mitchell!)

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