ConsumerWatch: New Baggage Rules Offer Travelers More Protection

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(Sebastien Nogier/AFP/Getty Images)

(Sebastien Nogier/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) – Have you ever lost your luggage on a trip? You’re not alone.

The Department of Transportation reports more than 2 million passengers filed claims for mishandled luggage last year. But new rules now offer more protection. We found out after a viewer reached out to ConsumerWatch.

When Eileen Reynolds tried to check-in her bag at the San Francisco International Airport, she was told it was too late.

“She said she’d put it on the next possible flight,” Reynolds said. But when she landed she found her bag never left San Francisco and. When she tried to report it lost, American Airlines would not let her. “They said we’ll contact you as soon as it shows up.”

Turns out the bag never arrived. After several attempts to report the baggage lost, American Airlines finally accepted her claim three days later. But then after months of waiting, instead of getting a check she got a letter.

“It said ‘we’re sorry,’ but we can’t reimburse you for your lost luggage because we have a rule that you have to report lost luggage in the first 4 hours,” she said. That’s when Reynolds turned to ConsumerWatch for help.

We contacted Travel Attorney Al Anolik to weigh in.

“They’re responsible from the minute it got lost, they owe the money,” Anolik said.

American Airlines eventually sent her a $1,500 travel voucher after we got involved. Anoli said that’s a violation.

“When they give you a voucher, they’re giving you nothing, they have to give you cash,” he said.

He also added that, according to a recent ruling by the Department of Transportation, if Reynolds does eventually get the cash, she’s entitled to more then $1,500.

Airlines are now required to pay for anything that’s lost up to $3,300. That includes electronics and heirlooms. Before you travel this holiday here are a few tips that may help if your baggage is lost. Take a photo of your luggage and items. Then make a list of what’s in the bag. Next, if your baggage doesn’t arrive, file a claim immediately.

Finally, if the Airline refuses to pay Anolik said it’s worth a try taking the case to small claims court. The law is on your side. Also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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