DOT tightens rules on baggage damage (and it’s actually in your favor)

Holding your breath at the baggage claim? Damaged luggage is one of those travel mishaps no one deserves yet everyone just sort of deals with.


You secretly wonder if each time might be the last time for your favorite bag, and worry that you've waited too long to invest in one of those ultra-durable spaceship varieties. This is no time to blame yourself. The truth is, eventually any suitcase will succumb to totally careless mishandling.

For a long time, airlines have used "normal wear and tear" as a generalization that protects them from compensating travelers for damages. Lucky for us, the Department of Transportation recently set out to clarify exactly what should be covered. After a trial implementation period that started last November, it is official:

Damage to handles, straps, wheels and zippers that reflect improper handling and are no longer the responsibility of the passengers. In fact, compensation received for damage to these parts can be up to $3,500.

Even if you feel the airline will most likely disagree with your claim, the DOT still insists that every passenger fills out a damage report, as it is the only way to measure if airlines are disclaiming liability.

Some airlines are using this known issue in a positive light to gain trust with travelers. For example, in their operational commitment to travel buyers, Delta is now adding baggage mishandling to its list of guaranteed compensations due to performance.

Air travel is full of possibilities, but we're here to make sure you know your options.