Customers file class action lawsuit against Delta

Posted on: January 4th, 2012 by Steve Larson

The lawsuit alleges that “Delta uniformly ignores its contractual obligations to reimburse passengers for expenses while their bags are delayed.”  The complaint also alleges that “such tactics allow Delta to pocket millions and millions it would have had to pay out if it had abided by its contracts with passengers.”  The lawsuit seeks class action status.

The plaintiff alleges that Delta tells customers that they are limited to recovering $25 per day for lost luggage.  However, federal regulations allow customers to collect up to $3,300 in compensation for what’s missing.

Delta was penalized $100,000 last year by the DOT for handing out a pamphlet that told passengers the airline was limited to $25 a day in liability, up to $125 total.  The airline’s website no longer has such clear-cut limits.  Instead, Delta refers to what it considers  “reasonable.”

“Reasonable expenses generally are $50 for the first 24 hours and $25 per day for the next four days the bag is delayed,” the airline says. That’s followed by this disclaimer: “The guidelines for reasonable expenses are NOT daily limits or a cap and additional expenses may be incurred and should be handled on an individual basis up to the limit of liability.” There is no mention of the only limit being $3,300.

The example cited in the lawsuit was the experience of Sue Miller, a Florida businesswoman who flew to Las Vegas and arrived on a chilly day with her luggage nowhere to be found.  Ms. Miller says she spent hundreds of dollars on toiletries, medication and other items she needed that day that were in her bag, in addition to items for a trade show she was there to attend. “They denied responsibility and said that they were not required by law to reimburse us,” Miller says. “We then filed a claim immediately with Delta. They denied it.”

Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said airlines are responsible for reasonable expenses of passengers due to mishandled bags.  From a practical standpoint, though, Mosley says it is between the consumer and the airline to work out a deal. Different airlines handle the claims process differently and the passenger should have documentation for their loss and the expenses they could claim, he says. But one thing is clear, Mosley says: “They cannot set any limitations other than the $3,300 per passenger.”