US airlines may soon be required to refund fees for delayed checked baggage
Current regulations require refunds only if bags are lost.
The bag-fee proposal is the first of several airline-consumer regulations coming from the administration of US President Joe Biden.
If approved, the proposal could take effect by next summer.
A senior official with the US Department of Transportation said that the agency will issue a proposal in the next few days that would requite the airlines to refund fees on checked baggage if the bags aren’t delivered to passengers within “reasonable” time.
The proposal, if made final after a lengthy regulation-writing process, would also require prompt refunds for fees on extras such as internet access if the airline fails to provide the service during the flight.
If approved, the proposal could take effect by next summer, official added.
The proposal will require refunds if airlines fail to deliver a bag within 12 hours of the passenger’s US flight touching down or within 25 hours of an international flight.
Current regulations require refunds only if bags are lost, although airlines must compensate passengers for “reasonable” incidental expenses incurred while their bags are delayed. The government does not know how often airlines keep fees even when bags are significantly delayed.
The bag-fee proposal is the first of several airline-consumer regulations coming from the administration of US President Joe Biden under an executive order that the president will soon sign, according to a senior Department of Transportation (DOT) official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a proposal that hasn’t been made public. The order will be designed to boost competition and give consumers more power, the official said.
Last year, more than 100,000 consumers complained to the government about airline service. Refunds were the biggest gripe, although most claimed airlines refused to give refunds to consumers who cancelled trips because of the pandemic. The Transportation Department is seeking a $25.5 million fine against Air Canada, but has not taken action against other carriers over refunds for canceled flights.
In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, passengers paid US airlines $5.76 billion in fees on checked bags, according to the Transportation Department. That dropped to $2.84 billion last year, when travel slumped because of the pandemic. The figures do not include fees for carry-on bags.