checked bag fee


May 22, 2004

American Airlines was the first of the major airlines to start tacking on fees for checked bags, and now its the first airline to face a class action lawsuit over the fees from a ticked-off passenger. And it all started over one piece of lost luggage.

The initial plaintiff in the case was a passenger on an American flight from Seattle to Grand Rapids, MI, earlier this year. Unfortunately, it looks like the one bag she paid $25 to check before boarding didn't make the flight.

American Airlines counters the incident in question happened on a flight from Chicago, Illinois, on the second leg of her trip to Michigan. (American doesn't have nonstop flights from Seattle to Grand Rapids.)

That flight was canceled, so American booked Covarrubias on another airline, said American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith.

When Covarrubias arrived in Grand Rapids and found her bag missing, she spoke with the other airline about the issue, Smith said. The bag was found and delivered to her the next day by that airline's representative, he said.

"We are told by the other carrier that at no time did Ms. Covarrubias ever make any claim with them for damages for her late-arriving bag or anything else," Smith said.

American Airlines hasn't been able to find any record of Covarrubias ever contacting or speaking to American about her delayed bag, a possible claim, or checked bag charges, Smith said.

"Any of our customers who choose to file a baggage claim with American Airlines are always welcome to include a request for a checked bag fee refund as part of that claim. That is the proper procedure for any customer to seek a refund on a checked bag charge," Smith said.
One would think that after charging a fee for luggage transport, the same manner of contract would exist between the passenger and airline similar to the terms of UPS or FedEx re: shipment of stuff and insuring same.

Charging for bags, while intended to add to airlines' bottom line, has landed the airlines which do charge for cartage in the UPS or FedEx arena and as such should be equally as responsible for lost or pilfered goods.