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Protecting Checked Luggage

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Travel insurance protects vacationers in the event of medical emergencies, delays, cancellations and damaged bags.  The frustration of a damaged suitcase is worse when airlines impose fees for checked luggage, sometimes even for just one checked item.  A recent article from MSNBC shared one traveler’s story about luggage being damaged and what action was taken.

US Airways had ruined my bag. But beyond ranting to strangers on the Internet (there are enough stories of satanic airlines taking pleasure in stuffing passengers into sardine cans, gleefully destroying baggage and watching us boil as we stumble through the customer service labyrinth), what recourse does a flier have when his bag is destroyed?

Like most airlines, US Airways requires that passengers report any damage to checked bags at the airport. With US Airways, this must be done within four hours. (Some carriers allow up to 24 hours, but the complaint still has to be made at the airport.) So I zipped back to the baggage claim.

“I’m sorry, sir, we see this happen all the time,” said the claim rep. She told me that airlines are not liable for damage to wheels, feet, zippers and extending handles. “When the baggage handlers throw the bags, the zipper rips off the fabric.” Do they see a lot of smashed zippers when they gently place the luggage on the belt? She obviously had no answer, but she gave me a number to call and register a complaint.

I was then told to e-mail my story to Central Baggage Resolution, a Phoenix-based office only reachable by e-mail. I imagine CBR as a digital bonfire that’s endlessly destroying correspondences. I learned that once CBR receives my claim, it’ll be 14 to 21 working days before I hear from them.

As I continue to hold my breath, I’ve started researching other ways to protect checked bags in the future. My plan of choice is simply to never check a bag, but here’s some info I found:

Both third-party insurers and credit card companies sometimes offer baggage insurance. American Express, for instance, offers free and for-fee baggage protection policies for card holders. I called Amex to learn about its $9.95 per roundtrip flight “premium” baggage policy, which covers checked bag damages up to $1,000. Here’s how it works, according to the customer rep: “File a claim with the airline at the airport. Get the denial.” Then file a claim with AmEx. The claim is reviewed with a licensed rep — but obviously there’s no guarantee that they’ll rule in your favor. The representative did say, however, that there are technically no exclusions for type of damage, ripped zippers included.

This story illustrates a very important concept when something bad happens to a traveler, that is, take all action to try to recover the loss at that time.  In this case, that means reporting the damaged luggage while still at the airport.  Acting quickly during a situation can save a lot of time and effort when filing a travel insurance claim.

If this situation happened to someone with a travel insurance policy, baggage & personal items loss coverage could apply.  This reimburses for items that are lost, damaged or stolen during the trip.  The coverage is not just for the actual suitcase, items within the suitcase can be covered as well.  Look closely when comparing policies, because some only cover checked luggage, while others don’t restrict when coverage is available.  Most policies contain per item limits and limits for specific luxury items like jewelry and furs.

Source: Destroyed suitcase? Protect your checked bags