Here’s What You Should Do If an Airline Damages Your Luggage

Damaged luggage? Here's how to file a claim and get compensation if your bag was damaged on a recent flight.

Passengers baggage in carts is waiting to be loaded onto the plane

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If you check your bags often enough, chances are you’ll experience bag damage, loss, or delay at some point. While the majority of bags end up in the right destination unharmed, damage can happen sometimes. 

Here’s what to do if an airline damages your bag and how you can get compensation.

What kind of damage is covered?

Airlines are required to compensate you if your bag is damaged during transit while in the airline’s control. You’re entitled to either a repaired bag or compensation based on the depreciated value of the bag.

Of course, there are limits to the amount of compensation required and restrictions on what’s covered and what’s not.

According to the Department of Transportation, an airline’s liability for damaged baggage is a maximum of $3,800 per passenger on domestic flights. For international flights, the maximum is approximately $1,700, as determined by the Montreal Convention treaty, a 1999 treaty that established airline liability for passenger and cargo safety. While an airline can choose to pay more than these limits, they aren’t required to.

For domestic travel, airlines can exclude certain items from baggage damage claims, These items can be found in the contract of carriage and may include cash, fragile items, electronics, perishable items, and valuable items like jewelry.

The rules for international travel state that the airline is responsible for any items they accept for transport.

Normal wear and tear, preexisting damage, and damage caused by improper packing are never covered.

Worker loading luggage on flat conveyor to Swiss airplane type Airbus A321neo register HB-JPB at Zürich Airport on a sunny summer day. Photo taken July 15th, 2022, Zurich, Switzerland.

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How to Report Bag Damage 

Different airlines have specific requirements you have to meet before you can make a claim. Most airlines require you to report any luggage damage within 24 hours of landing for domestic flights, and within seven days of landing for international flights.

However, there are exceptions and other stipulations you might need to follow, depending on your airline. Here’s a more detailed look at what some airlines require in order to make a damaged bag claim:

American Airlines requires you to report your bag damage at the airport within 24 hours of landing on a domestic flight. You’ll get a 13-digit file reference number to use when filing your claim online.

To file a claim with Delta Air Lines, you’ll need to first have your bag examined in person at the airline’s baggage office within 24 hours of a domestic flight. Then you’ll get a file reference number to include when you submit your claim online.

United Airlines allows you to report your bag damage at the airport or by calling the Baggage Recovery Center within 24 hours of landing on a domestic flight. You can then file your claim online using the nine-digit reference number you’ll receive after you report the damage.

Before filing a damaged bag claim with Alaska Airlines, you need to report the damage at the airport within 24 hours of landing on a domestic flight. You’ll receive a confirmation email with an identification number to keep track of your claim.

Southwest Airlines allows you to report damage in person or via phone as long as it’s within four hours of your flight’s arrival or receipt of the bag.

To make a claim, you’ll need to submit as much information as possible. This includes any reference numbers from the baggage claim office, flight information, and photos of the damaged bag. Be sure to include any photos you took of your luggage before your trip as a point of comparison. Depending on the carrier, additional documentation may be requested, including the original luggage receipt, baggage claim tickets, or ticket receipt.

Occasionally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may open and inspect your bags (if you’re using a luggage lock, make sure it’s TSA approved). When this happens, you’ll find a written notice inside your luggage. If you suspect damage occurred during this process, you’ll need to contact the TSA directly by filing a claim online or by calling 866-289-9673. The airline isn’t responsible for damage caused by the TSA.

A large pile of suitcases at lost and found department at the airport

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Credit Cards That Come With Baggage Insurance 

While it’s great to know that airlines are responsible for damages to your baggage, sometimes, the compensation they provide isn’t enough. That’s why it’s a great idea to have a credit card that comes with baggage insurance, which is often included under a lost luggage policy.

Coverage eligibility varies by card, but it usually requires you to have booked your flight using the card with baggage insurance. Here’s a look at some of the best credit cards that include baggage insurance:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards both cover the cardholder plus any immediate family members for up to $3,000 per person. It covers both checked and carry-on luggage that is either damaged or lost by the airline.

The Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express both include checked-bag coverage of up to $2,000, with a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on luggage.

The American Express Gold Card and American Express Business Gold Card both come with damage coverage of up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and up to $500 for checked bags.

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