American Airlines Reminds Agents Of All The Reasons To Deny Your Lost/Damaged Baggage Claim

American Airlines sent out a memo to all of its agents reminding them about all of the reasons they should use to deny or limit passenger claims for delayed, lost or damaged luggage, especially after international trips.

The Montreal Convention creates a maximum liability for an airline for all personal belongings on an international trip (including both checked bags and carry on bags). That’s 1288 ‘Special Drawing Rights‘ which are a made up currency that equals ~ US$1,821.

  • American wants all agents to know that this maximum amount isn’t automatic, but must be proven by the customer

  • And there are lots of reasons they can use to deny claims.

Let’s say you had cash in your bag that was lost. You can’t just list the cash. And an ATM receipt proves you took the cash out of the bank, not that it was in the suitcase.

Damaged sports equipment in a soft-sided bag is never covered,

Due to their size and nature, most sports items and musical instruments are easily damaged. The item is not suitably packed if it is in a soft-side case. If the soft-side bag and item inside are damaged, only cover the damage to the bag.

Agents can also deny a claim for any damaged fragile item without suitable packaging or padding inside of a suitcase.

And interline bags create a separate opportunity to deny liability. While the last carrier on an itinerary is generally responsible for its delivery, agents should check if any of the claimed items were accepted by the original airline with which the bag was checked but aren’t permitted to be checked under American Airlines rules. Say you checked a hoverboard with a foreign airline and connected onto America, and the hoverboard was damaged. American doesn’t accept hoverboards in checked baggage, so wouldn’t pay out a claim.

If the item is perishable, deny the claim. If the item wasn’t sufficiently packaged, deny the claim. If damage could have been caused by other items inside the luggage when it’s tossed about, deny the claim. If the bag was overpacked, deny the claim. Wear and tear isn’t covered either.

And while American will only accept liability for sports equipment if it’s packed in hard sided luggage, they’ll deny liability for damage to that equipment if the outside of the luggage doesn’t show damage.

This is all probably right, of course, but it’s more important to train agents and baggage handlers on proper care for luggage to minimize damage to the items entrusted to them. This was United Airlines:

Instead, passenger luggage should be treated with great care!

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. Our nightmare scenario is having to gate check our carryon bag full of expensive camera equipment. It is in a camera backpack (not soft, but not hard either) and is meant to never leave our possession – and never be put under the plane. We are DL Diamond Medallions and always board first, but if someday there is a close connection and there is no overhead space left we could be screwed. I often wonder what the best way to handle this situation is. Beg an FA to have mercy and put it in one of the closets?

  2. @Don in ATL

    I have no problems asking the flight attendants to use the closets on board if I am one of the last on board especially if I am sitting up front

  3. Tell them you’re carrying Li-Ion batteries (even if you aren’t, but you probably are), so it can’t go in the checked luggage area. In a close connection, they’re not going to go to the trouble of having you dig them out, they’ll find space because they have to.

  4. @Don in ATL
    Bubble wrap the s*** out of everything and make sure you have third party insurance on all gear.

  5. Then they wonder why agents get assaulted.
    I know I’m being glib, but the airlines are their own worst enemy. SMH.
    I’m usually pretty chill, but after my second flight in a row being cancelled, then making two connections the next day, my last flight of the day had run out of overhead space. I had my camera equipment in my bag and had a to run and catch a bus as soon as I landed (I live 2 hours from the airport) and wouldn’t have made it if I had to wait for my checked bag. I asked the gate agent if there was anything they could do since you know there is a lot of wasted overhead space for people’s coats etc., and was met with the rudest response. I almost lost it.
    I’m not surprised they are making this move, but it’s just going to make life harder for the agents, and in turn make worse service for customers.

  6. The Montreal Convention creates an absolute liability scheme; a provision that deviates from that scheme in a CoC is void. This is well established law. Airlines saying they won’t cover wear and tear, overpacked luggage, certain types of contents etc. is a breach of the convention. If the carrier accepts the bag, it accepts all contents as they are and they are absolutely liable for damage.

    Re: the interline excuse, also bs. IATA’s “rule” that the final carrier is the liable carrier is a rule made outside the Convention. Indeed, the Convention specifically allows claimants to go after any airline who carried the bag, in whole or in part.

    While there are extremely limited circumstances a carrier could avoid liability, for instance an act of terrorism, it’s so incredibly rare that exceptions aren’t worth mentioning.

    If there’s damage or loss on an international trip, there’s liability. Plain and simple.

  7. Avery,

    So what’s a practical way to force an airline to recognize a liability beyond what their policies allow?

  8. It just looks like AA is trying every way known to man to tank its own business.
    They don’t want to be responsible for passengers or their belongings while charging higher fares and fees for everything.

    I don’t miss anything about flying and I especially don’t miss it after covid has shown me that they allow people to act like violent animals, flights get cancelled, and they got a bailout from the government.
    I trust the airline industry now about as far as I can chuck the Sears Tower.

  9. I am ExPlat on American and have been traveling non stop since last June. The Airline that I loved is now the worst airline in N America in my opinion. Every week there is a new problem. This very minute I am in Des Moines waiting for my luggage. They cannot get the baggage door open on the plane. To be fair they do do a great job on hounding you about the mask mandate.

  10. AA can do this but that can lead to a boycott. A family member had a bag destroyed and some contents lost by AA in 1982. AA claimed the bag was worthless and only paid $25. That led to a 20 year boycott of AA, robbing them of lucrative business related travel. All is good now as the boycott has ended.

  11. I REALLY appreciate this article and will make SURE to and share it WITH EVERY SINGLE person I know that lives and breaths and attempts to travel with AA. We have to stick together and voice our rights as consumers. It’s ENOUGH!! The more we allow, the more they ALL think they’re allowed to make YOU feel like accepting your MONEY is a FAVOR THEY are doing YOU the consumer!!

  12. Fly Southwest or Jetblue domestically and the carribean.
    Fly foriegn airlines on international travel.

  13. It’s unfortunate that a few scamming people cause so much pain for the average Joe traveler. Working for an airline for 35+ years. Passengers claim lost, stolen items that where never in the bag all the time. Broke my driver on vacation, get the airline to pay for it. Claim I didn’t get my bag and we have video (airports have good cameras everywhere) of you or relative picking it up off the baggage belt.
    Tips:. Don’t pack valuable or fragile items in bags.
    Buy sturdy bags and hard side bags break easy in the cold winter.
    Spinner wheels are great but because they stick out, break off easily.
    Don’t over pack; overweight/over stuff baggages are the most common items that get damaged.
    Don’t pack too little either, a under filled bag can get crushed.
    The airport and airline belt systems break off things that dangle from your bag, locks, name tags, zipper pulls, etc.
    Know if you are on a mainline or commuter airplane ( most commuters gate check).
    Don’t be in the last group to board. With airlines charging for bags, even big planes overhead bins fill up and you may be forced to check it.
    Use only a TSA lock.
    Don’t expect the airline to handle it like it has eggs in it. There are just too many bags with 30-40 minute turn times.

  14. Jake: Small claims court. It cost like $25 to file, and it forces AA to show up. If you ignore the date, you get a default judgement. If they show, you whip out the Montreal Convention documents along with pictures. No judge in this country would side with AA in these cases.

    Win. Win.

  15. @Mike S

    I’m sure after suing AA in small claims court for a couple hundred bucks you’ll be banned by airline for all future flights. Not smart if you live in a hub city where they are the only game in town

  16. @Avery- your statement is the silliest I’ve heard this week. There’s no way an airline can or should accept responsibility for damage to the contents of your luggage. As far as the bag itself, they can’;t be responsible for normal wear and tear such as abrasions, small dents, etc- that’s what luggage is for, to protect the contents. However, if they accept a bag which is already badly damaged, then they must have you sign a release of liability for the bag and its contents.,

  17. 98% of Baggage service at AA is handled by contrctors. As US Airways employees, we lost Baggage Serice on our last contrct. It’s important to keeo in mind that this is not directly handled by AA. I believe Central baggage in Dallas is in control of the official thumbs up and thumbs down.

  18. There truly is similarity between the Airlines and the Insurance industry
    They love our money because we have to fly and we have to be insured but filing claims is where the love turns into more hell for consumers and yet spend hundreds millions of money lobbying govt in their favor

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