Buried in the new bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration are a few sections addressing the fees that many of us pay to fly. And while the Senate and the House bills still differ a bit, one likely result is going to be this: The carriers are going to have to refund the fees you pay when your luggage isn’t on your flight and you have to wait a long time to get it. …
■ Any attempt to reason with the airline begins with the discovery that it may have declared all baggage fees nonrefundable in nearly every circumstance.
… While the bill contains other improvements for traveling families, people in wheelchairs and others, those baggage fees are the ones that airlines have been charging for a longer time and are particularly noxious. If the bag doesn’t come spinning around the carousel, you shouldn’t have to pay, right?
HAGGLING WITH THE AIRLINE In December, my family and I checked some bags on a domestic Delta Air Lines flight and did not get them back until 30 hours later. It seemed as if a refund was in order, but it took some effort to get Delta agents to even acknowledge that there was a way to request one. …
DISPUTING FEES WITH YOUR CARD COMPANY Having given Delta an opportunity to fix the problem only to find that I could not get my money back, I called up American Express, my credit card issuer, to dispute the baggage fee charges. The dispute process can be an incredibly powerful tool for aggrieved consumers, and you can learn more about it in my 2013 column on the topic.When I got a representative on the phone, however, she informed me that I was not allowed to dispute this fee. Why not? Because of an agreement that the airline has with American Express, she said. …TURN TO WASHINGTON Depending on what happens to the new legislation, it’s possible that some of the bag fee angst will go away. The Senate version of the bill calls for airlines to automatically refund the baggage fees when travelers do not get their luggage within six hours of their arrival on a domestic flight or 12 hours on an international one. The House version gives a 24-hour deadline, and the delivery of the refund would not be automatic.Both passages are pretty generous to the airlines. Baggage service used to be free. Now that it generally isn’t, should they really get a free pass if your bags come on the next flight four hours later and you have to deal with the logistics of making sure they get to you?… if you’re stuck paying fees on a carrier that gives you grief when the bags don’t come on time, dispute those charges and dispute them often. Another thing that gets the carrier’s attention is your filing a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
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Undue Deference Is Not Applicable When Exiting an Aircraft