When airlines charge baggage fee they must deliver bags


A Washington state woman is suing American Airlines for a refund because it lost her luggage.

When airlines began charging travelers a separate baggage fee for travelers, most grumbled but paid. After all, those going on long trips need to bring along luggage filled with clothes and other personal items.

But in paying the fee -- generally about $25 per bag -- air passengers have an expectation their luggage will arrive and arrive in good shape, right?

Absolutely. Payment is an implied contract.

It's no different than buying a shirt that is found to be ripped or a meal that's lousy. If customers aren't happy because the product is defective or service is not acceptable they can get their money back.

Yet, at least one airline apparently doesn't see it that way.

A Pierce County woman is suing American Airlines to recoup her checked bag fee. She claims the airline lost her luggage and refused to refund her $25 fee. The lawsuit, filed in Seattle, seeks class action status, saying American has refused refunds to potentially thousands of passengers whose bags are missing or damaged.

This lawsuit could be a big deal for consumers and airlines.

KING 5-TV in Seattle reported this lawsuit could put millions of dollars per month at stake. The U.S. Department of Transportation says American Airlines passengers reported 23,000 mishandled bags in May. That same month all airlines had 160,000 bags lost or damaged for which they were paid $4 million in fees.

"I think it's totally wrong. I don't care if it's American or United or anyone else. I'd be furious," traveler Wayne Pinkstaff told KING 5. "It's bad enough to lose the bag and to go through all the grief to try and get it back, but once I get it back and I still have to pay the fees, I don't think so."

American Airlines should have voluntarily refunded its baggage fee when officials learned of the Pierce County woman's lost bag. If so, the airline would have avoided a lawsuit -- and a lot of bad publicity.

When airlines started charging a luggage fee they raised the bar on our expectations -- intended or not. If the airlines don't deliver luggage they have an obligation to refund the fee.

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