Re­fund fees for lost bags?

Los Angeles Times - - Monday Business - Hugo Martín hugo.martin@latimes.com

In the 12-month pe­riod that ended in June, the nation’s top 10 air­lines col­lected more than $3.1 bil­lion in bag­gage fees.

So it’s no sur­prise the air­line in­dus­try op­poses a move by the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion to man­date that all air­lines of­fer re­funds of the fees when bags are lost or de­layed.

What’s in­ter­est­ing are ob­jec­tions raised by the Air Trans­port Assn., which rep­re­sents most of the nation’s largest air­lines.

In com­ments filed with the fed­eral agency last week, the as­so­ci­a­tion said each air­line should have the choice of of­fer­ing a re­fund, depend­ing on com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place.

Only a few air­lines, in­clud­ing Alaska Air­lines, now of­fer au­to­matic re­funds if a bag is lost or de­layed. Most ma­jor air­lines will con­sider re­fund­ing your bag fee — only af­ter you file a claim, and the re­fund usu­ally comes in the form of a dis­count on fu­ture travel.

The air­line group also said it op­posed the re­fund idea be­cause a govern­ment man­date like this would raise fares for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing peo­ple who don’t check bags. And it said a re­fund wouldn’t work be­cause the re­quire­ment for “timely de­liv­ered” bags is a “sub­jec­tive stan­dard” and would “not ac­count for vary­ing con­di­tions.”

The DOT said it hadn’t in­cluded a def­i­ni­tion of a timely de­liv­ered bag, leav­ing that up to the air­lines and the pub­lic to sug­gest.

Trav­eler Daniel Cope of New York sub­mit­ted a com­ment to the DOT sug­gest­ing that pas­sen­gers get a re­fund if a bag is not de­liv­ered to the lug­gage carousel within one hour of the air­craft ar­riv­ing at the gate. “Fur­ther­more,” he added, “a bag not mak­ing a con­nec­tion with a pas­sen­ger should not be an ex­cuse. If a pas­sen­ger can make the con­nec­tion, this is proof that the bag could have made the con­nec­tion as well.”

The com­ment pe­riod for the pro­posed rule and other pas­sen­ger pro­tec­tion poli­cies ended Thurs­day. The DOT hopes to adopt a rule by spring.

Air­line obeys rule and is fined

Six months ago, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion be­gan to en­force a new rule that al­lows the agency to fine air­lines that leave pas­sen­gers stranded on the tar­mac for more than three hours.

Since the law took ef­fect, a hand­ful of planes have been re­ported as stuck be­yond that limit, but the DOT has not yet fined any car­rier.

How­ever, the DOT fined United Air­lines $12,000 last week for re­port­ing a three­hour de­lay that turned out not to be a vi­o­la­tion.

The case dates from May 26, when four United planes were stuck on the tar­mac at Colorado Springs Air­port be­cause of bad weather. The United crews gave pas­sen­gers food and wa­ter af­ter two hours and of­fered them the op­tion of get­ting off the planes af­ter three hours, as re­quired by the new rule.

But be­cause the planes sat on the tar­mac more than three hours, United re­ported the in­ci­dent as a pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tion. The DOT con­cluded that it was not, and fined United for prompt­ing an un­nec­es­sary in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Free drinks at air­port lounges

If high fees and long de­lays at air­ports are get­ting you down, Amer­i­can Air­lines has an of­fer for you: Start­ing Oct. 1, most drinks at the Ad­mi­rals Club lounges will be on the house.

Beer, house wine and “brand liquors” will be com­pli­men­tary at the do­mes­tic lounges, but you must pay for pre­mium wines and liquors.

Club mem­ber­ship costs as much as $500 a year or $50 for a one-day pass.

Amer­i­can isn’t the first air­line to give away booze at its air­port lounges. Free drinks are also of­fered at most Delta Sky Club and US Air­ways Club lounges, among oth­ers.

Al­though the of­fer is in­def­i­nite, an Amer­i­can Air­line spokesman noted that the bar­tenders re­serve the right to cut you off.

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