Compensation for Misplaced Baggage

December 21, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I am praying that you can help me out here. I took a flight on Continental from Newark to Chicago. I had a lap baby with me and when I got to the door of the plane to board I folded up my stroller and continued on with my rolling carry on and baby bag. The agent told me there was not enough room for the roller and it would need to go with my stroller. I threw some of my stuff (coat and boots etc.) into the bag and took the claim check issued for the bag. I assumed that I would have both my bag and stroller waiting for me at the door when I got off the plane. I was only given my stroller and was told the bag that they took from me at the door would be at the baggage claim. By the time i got my daughter in the stroller and down to baggage claim my bag was gone. There was another black rolling bag that looked just like mine left there and was not claimed by anyone. The agent told me that someone probably took my bag and would call them very soon and report the mix up. I waited a day and heard nothing. I kept calling and checking in to see the status of my bag and still nothing. They issued me $200 to buy a winter coat and boots and anything I would need to get by until they return my bag. It’s now two days later they say they have located it. Someone took my bag and continued on to Brazil. Now the airline says they are not responsible because someone took it and it had nothing to do with them. I packed my belongings in my carry on because I wanted to avoid this situation all together. Am I supposed to get the name of the passenger and go after them for theft? What are my options?



    A. Remember in the good old days when there were personnel at the baggage claim exits to check your bag tag with your claim check? They were there to prevent exactly this kind of situation. The airlines paid for these people, but they’ve gone the way of many other niceties of flying. If your bag is truly lost (and I’m going to guess that you’ll eventually be reunited with it), you’re entitled to up to $3300 in compensation. But even if it’s merely displaced, a recent D.O.T. directive to the airlines states that even in the event of a delayed bag, you should get reasonable compensation for lost items that you cannot do without on your trip or when you get back home. You can find this ruling here. You need to show it to Continental and insist that they step up, and also tell them you’re reporting the incident to the D.O.T., which you can do here.

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