Your rights if you fly to Phoenix, but your bags end up in Pittsburgh

April 15, 2014

During the first successful airplane flight in 1903, Orville Wright had to lie on top of a wing, next to the motor, in the open air.

He might feel right at home on many of today's airlines. Although passengers now get to ride inside the plane, there's still not much room for your bags (or legs). If you have to check a suitcase or two, our Ratings of the best airlines show that some carriers handle bags a lot better than others.

More bags also went missing last year than in 2012, a new study conducted by researchers from Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University finds. (And consumers faced more delays.) 

Yet consumer complaints to the government dropped 15 percent after spiking in 2012. Perhaps we're resigned to the fact that airline travel is now often an endurance test. Delays, lost bags, high fees; what's next, cheap seats on the wings? (At least there will be more room for your legs.)

If your bags are lost, it should give you at least some comfort to know that a 2009 directive from the Department of Transportation (DOT) ordered domestic airlines not to place arbitrary limits on lost bag compensation. Instead, they are to cover “all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay,” up to $3,300.  

And in 2011, the DOT said airlines are required to refund those annoying baggage fees if your bags are lost. If the airline doesn’t comply, file a complaint with the DOT.

To land the best deal on your airfare, see our airline buying guide. For a list of places where you can get great vacation discounts now, see our off-season travel suggestions.

–Mandy Walker

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