Disgruntled customers can now sue airlines over delayed bags, a federal appeals court ruled this week.
Even if you go to great lengths to make sure your checked bags won't get lost, ultimately, it's out of your control. Once you toss your suitcase on that scale, it's at the airline's whim. A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, however, that you might have more recourse to recouping your checked bag fee, when it overturned an earlier decision that could pave the way for disgruntled customers to sue airlines over delayed bags.
Back in 2009, Hayley Hickcox-Huffman paid $15 to check her bag on a US Airways flight from Colorado Springs, Colorado to San Luis Obispo, California. When her luggage didn't show upon time, and took another day to arrive, she filed a class action lawsuit against US Airways on behalf of all customers whose bags were delayed, according to Reuters. But in 2011, a federal court dismissed the case, citing the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act that both prohibited states from enforcing laws concerning "price, route or service" of airlines, and passengers from suing airlines over said laws.
As SF Gate notes, however, federal appeals judge Andrew Kleinfeld ruled Wednesday that the airline committed itself to "on-time baggage delivery" in its Terms of Transportation with Hickcox-Huffman, which constituted a "contract to deliver the baggage when she landed" that was not part of state laws. The lawsuit originally pleaded a breach of contract when the airline didn't deliver her bags on time, and didn't refund the checked-bag fee afterward.
US Airways merged with American Airlines back in 2013, forming the world's biggest airline. But the industry as a whole has enough at stake in this case that the Air Transport Association of America, a lobbying group for airlines, joined US Airways/American Airlines in its defense against the class action suit. A ruling against the defendants could have a far-reaching financial impact for all domestic carriers. While lost luggage was at its lowest rate ever in 2016, domestic airlines collected $4.18 billion in baggage fees— American collected $1.12 billion of that money alone.
The case is being sent back to the lower court for further ruling, but in the meantime, if your bags get delayed and you're wondering what you can do, you can read all about that here.Conde Nast Traveler