Not having your bags show up on the luggage wheel upon your arrival used to just be an aggravation held against airline ineptitude. But these days, the stakes have been raised: now you’re expected to pay a fee for your luggage. In the event that your bags are lost or sent somewhere else by mistake, you’ve essentially paid for services not rendered. And as it turns out, most airlines offer no easy way for you to get that money back.
For instance, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue both bury their bag fee within the overall ticket price. If your luggage is lost, there’s no paper trail that will help you establish a strong case against these companies for reimbursement. In essence, the apparently lowered costs of traveling with these airlines comes with the risk of not being compensated in the event your bags don’t accompany you to your destination.
Other airlines assure fliers with promises of reimbursement in the event that bags are lost, but in practice, it’s much harder than they make it out to be. Alaska Airlines, for example, shows off a seemingly impressive reparations package offered to those who have their bags misplaced. They will either debit you $20.00 toward another ticket purchase or give you 2,000 frequent flier miles. But as it turns out, claiming these reimbursements is easier said than done. It requires that you speak to an airline authority within two hours of lost luggage and it’s only for one bag per person, so if more were lost you’re out of luck.
Delta is the only other airline that offers something even remotely close to being considered luggage-fee restitution in the event of lost bags. The Delta package is a little different, but is essentially the same thing as Alaska’s, only in exchange for a 12 hour wait time as opposed to only two, fliers get the luxury of being able to have two lost bags compensated for instead of just one.
As far as the rest of the airlines go, name your carrier and be ready for disappointment. They won’t let you board a plane with luggage without paying for the extra weight, yet they won’t refund you that charge in the event that your luggage never arrives.
Simply put, paying for luggage is a certainty and being compensated for lost luggage is a rarity in a world where airlines are severely strapped for cash and fuel costs continue to skyrocket.