5 On Your Side

Travelers still losing bags on flights amid new tracking technology

Posted November 17, 2015 5:04 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2015 11:51 a.m. EST

— It’s the wait travelers everywhere dread—wondering where their luggage is and the worry about arriving at a destination without it.

Jimmie Harris returned to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in August, after his national fraternity meeting in New Orleans.

“One of my bags came through baggage [claim] but the other bag did not come,” Harris said.

Ever since, Harris has been battling with US Airways—now American Airlines—to track down his missing bag.

“I had to call constantly,” Harris said. “Every time I call, always different information.”

5 On Your Side called American Airlines and followed up with Harris and the airline asked him to describe the suitcase. A week later, American Airlines told WRAL the bag was officially lost and offered Harris $220, plus what he paid to check the bag.

Between a tuxedo and three suits Harris had in his bag, he estimates the value at $1,300.
The Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate for lost, delayed or damaged bags, including what’s inside, for up to a maximum of $3,500 for domestic flights, and less for international flights; there is no minimum.

For any item that costs more than $150, documentation is required, that could be receipts, credit card statements, and even photos could help. If claims are inflated, the airline may deny the request completely.

Harris said he’s attempting to track down proof of his purchases, but he is not optimistic.

“If I had to give them a grade from zero to 10, that grade would be one, because I’m not satisfied,” he said.

After we inquired, American Airlines said they refunded the $30 checked baggage fee Harris paid, which is required under the Department Of Transportation rules.

Another option when luggage is lost and compensation is offered that a consumer feels is unfair, is to push for a travel voucher for a future flight.

Many airlines now have systems that allow travelers to track their bags, including American Airlines.

Because of the new technology, they claim less than one percent of bags are lost forever. However, the new system still requires humans to scan bags, which doesn’t always happen.

Update: After WRAL's story aired, American Airlines sent an email saying they would pay Harris another $750, bringing his total reimbursement to $970. They will also be refunding the fee he paid to check the bag.