I was on a flight approximately several weeksago and the airline still has not found my luggage. I did not have anything particularly valuable in my suitcases but it is still extremely frustrating. The airline has worked with me but hasn’t been as accommodating as I would expect. They haven’t contacted me asking how much my luggage was worth in order to replace it. What are my rights against the airline?
That is a very frustrating situation. It reminds me of a similar scenario in a recent comedy starring Ben Stiller… The answer to your question depends on an explanation of several principles.
An airline is a common carrier because airlines transport persons or goods for hire. A number of rules govern the transport of goods by airline companies.
Generally, where items are shipped on a common carrier, the carrier acts as the insurer of the goods and is liable for loss or damage to the goods subject to limited exceptions. The Interstate Commerce Act, and more specifically the Carmack Amendment, prevents carriers from limiting the liability imposed on them by the Act.
However, the Carmack Amendment does not apply to passenger baggage. Instead, different rules apply depending on whether the baggage is kept in the possession of the passenger or exclusively in the carrier’s possession.
Where the baggage is exclusively in the carrier’s possession, the carrier is liable as an insurer for the baggage delivered to it.
On the other hand, if the baggage was kept in the exclusive control of the passenger, the carrier is not liable as an insurer for the baggage in the passenger’s possession. However, negligence principles may apply against the carrier depending on the circumstances.
In your situation, I assume that the luggage that was lost was luggage given to the airline for safe placement in cargo during the flight. It is unclear how the luggage was lost. Nonetheless, based on the above principles, the airline should be responsible for the loss of your suitcases.
Although your luggage may still turn up, if it does not, the airline should reasonably compensate you for the loss of your belongings.