Airlines Will Soon Have To Refund Checked Bag Fees When Bags Are Delayed

American Airlines was the first to charge for checked bags, during the Great Recession. Now checked bag fees are big business. They represent billions in revenue. That means shifting money out of the ticket price and into ancillary fees which are subject to federal excise taxes. And it’s a motivator for some to get co-brand credit cards or earn elite status, waiving these charges.

  • However when an airline charges for the service and fails to deliver it, the customer is mostly stuck.
  • Airlines currently have to refund bag fees for actual lost bags, but not for delayed bags.

When you pay for a big the implied service is that it will be delivered to baggage claim when your flight lands. Delta and Alaska both compensate customers when bags aren’t delivered within 20 minutes of arrival. Alaska pioneered this and Delta competes aggressively with them in Seattle. United, American and Southwest do not have similar programs.

Sometimes bags don’t get loaded, don’t make a connection, or get sent to the wrong city. Sometimes during a labor action this even happens intentionally. Airlines haven’t delivered the product they’ve charged for, but aren’t required to issue refunds.

You’ll generally get some money or assistance with short-term needs from the airline when traveling away from home. Some credit cards offer delayed baggage protection, generally up to $100 per day in necessities for up to 5 days.

The Biden administration plans to crack down to require refund of fees when bags are delayed for over 12 hours.

A department official said the agency will issue the proposal in the next several days, and it could take effect by next summer.

The proposal will require refunds if airlines fail to deliver a bag within 12 hours of the passenger’s U.S. flight touching down or within 25 hours after an international flight.

Canada’s consumer protection rules, which U.S. airlines comply with on flights to Canada, already requires refund of baggage charges for luggage delayed, lost or damaged.

The Department of Transportation proposed rulemaking is expected to cover refund of other fees for services that an airline charges for but doesn’t deliver, such as payment for inflight internet when the service is unusable. It’s a good thing that United’s aircraft order and fleet retrofit plans come with upgrading internet, because of the major carriers they’re the biggest offender here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. One thing to point out… I always get emails before my flights saying that there is Wifi available, and I should purchase now… And very often you get aboard and it’s either broken or hasn’t yet been installed on the new aircraft…

    Very bothersome on long flights.. I use miles almost always for these purchases and usually do a month long subscription, so I’m not sure how a refund would work in this case other than just a flat 500 miles or something worthless.

  2. I dont fly as often as others but I was surprised that they charge for Wi-fi. I’ll have to brush off my hayseeds before next flight.

  3. Refund of bag fees after 12 hours delay is too lax. That might cause Alaska and Delta Seattle bag guarantees to end. If so, Biden’s initiative is not so good.

    When I fly Alaska, I want my bag delayed! If I don’t want it delayed, I don’t check in a bag.

  4. Is the Govt going to get me refunds when my carryout food order is wrong? What about if I order something online and it doesn’t arrive as promised? Human error is a factor, weather delays, maintenance delays, etc Is the Govt going to step in for other Industries? Ridiculous-big Govt is terrible!!

  5. Buckle up as if this happens, good luck to you who want to change routing mid connection… Say go to LGA instead of JFK or say you missed your flight after checking in your bag (happens hundreds of times all day, that Starbucks line was long, etc) and next is a nonstop but sorry you have to stick now to the routing you have so your bag follows you ….and those flights are full….

    Be careful what you wish for.

  6. I am sure Biden can find more important things to do for the country at this point than meddle with bag fees, annoying as they are.

  7. @Dontcare, since when do they let you switch flights mid connection when you’ve checked bags? They would never allow it anyway.

  8. Canada requires a refund for delayed bags but not for tickets when they cancel a flight?


  9. Refunds should be required if bags do not make it on the flight the passenger is on. 100 percent bag matching should be compulsory and extreme fines starting at 250K per bag mismatched should solve the problem.

  10. @Vicky W
    If a business takes your money and doesn’t give you what promised, you absolutely should get your money back.
    Normally a company that wants to remain in business will voluntarily make it right. If they don’t I’d chargeback on my credit card. But any business that has a history of not providing what was paid for and not refunding the payment, the government absolutely will get involved.

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