Rolex, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci are missing from the bag.
Airlines misplace and lose luggage all the time. It happened so frequently in last year that Delta flew a passenger-less plane from London to return 1,000 missing suitcases to their rightful owners. Even if you locate your lost bag, it could still end up with damage–but, hopefully nothing is missing. Unfortunately for Tykeisha Campbell, she had to contend with the worst-case scenario, according to a new lawsuit.
Campbell and her husband were flying back home to Michigan on Spirit Airlines in May from Jamaica, with a stop-over in Philadelphia–where she discovered her bag didn’t make it to the connecting flight. She said in a court filing that the bag was delivered home to her the next day, but she discovered that it was damaged and more than $10,000 worth of luxury goods were missing. The total financial loss, she alleges, is $14,208.30.
In an answer to the complaint filed on September 25, Spirit has denied all wrongdoing.
Included in Campbell’s claim are photographs of the damaged luggage and receipts for the purchase of goods from Louis Vuitton, Farfetch, and Gucci; plus, a receipt for a Rolex worth $5,200.
Spirit Airlines has filed a motion to remove the case from the 36th District Court for the County of Wayne, Michigan, and move it to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division. The reason is that Campbell and her husband flew from Jamaica to the United States, and international flights are covered under the Montreal Convention. “Plaintiff’s claims fall within the scope of the Montreal Convention as they arise from alleged carriage on an international flight, and the underlying facts solely arise from delays and/or the loss of and/or damage to certain baggage,” the court document says.
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The Montreal Convention is an international treaty between countries that governs liability for passengers, baggage, and cargo. Any loss or damage to baggage and cargo is covered by this treaty within countries that are party to it–death, injury, and delay are also part of the convention.
If you lose your bag when flying from the U.S. to the U.K. for example, the Montreal Convention will apply. But flying domestically within the states is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The U.S. Department of Transportation clearly states on its website that on international flights, the Montreal Convention applies. “The maximum baggage liability for flights covered by the Montreal Convention is currently 1,288 Special Drawing Rights (approximately U.S. $1,700.00) per passenger. This is the most that airlines must pay a passenger for a lost, damaged, or delayed bag. Airlines are free to pay more than the limit, but are not required to do so.”
If the Montreal Convention applies, then Campbell may be compensated a fraction of what she said she lost—if she can prove it. Which begs the question, how do you provide evidence that you have lost or damaged items from your baggage?
Scott Keyes, founder of Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), tells Fodor’s, “Anytime you check a bag, right before you hand it over to an airline agent, pull out your phone, unzip the bag, and take a quick picture of the contents. That way, if the bag does go missing, you can easily prove what was in there.”
Keyes adds that a GPS tracker like an Airtag will improve your chances of locating your baggage in case it goes missing.
If a passenger’s bag or checked items are damaged, it’s necessary for the passenger to prove the airline caused it, says Cara O’Neill, an attorney and editor at Nolo. “Because the passenger must prove the airline caused the damage, it’s prudent to document damage immediately by making a claim before leaving the airport,” she tells Fodor’s. “By making a claim with the airline before leaving the airport, the passenger can present the luggage as it appeared when unloaded at baggage claim, thus preventing an argument by the airline that the item was damaged after it left the airport. An airport claim and examination on the spot also gives the passenger the opportunity to show that the item was packed appropriately.”
As for the maximum amount a passenger can expect for reimbursement, O’Neill says, “An airline that damages luggage or its contents is responsible for reimbursing the item’s depreciated value up to the maximum set by the Department of Transportation, which is currently $3,800 [for domestic travel].”
Regardless, Keyes recommends that you always avoid packing jewelry or other expensive items in your checked-in luggage. “Keep those on your person or in a carry-on bag so you don’t risk the items getting stolen or going missing,” he advises.
O’Neill agrees, adding, “Some airlines allow passengers to pay for an increase in the limit of the airline’s liability. Another option would be to use a commercial shipper to send the item home and insure it to its full value.”