Airlines facing new baggage delay penalties

Should airlines reimburse passengers for delayed bags?

That’s the question the Department of Transportation (DOT) is asking as it contemplates whether passengers should receive a refund when their baggage doesn’t show up on time.

“Each delayed bag affects an individual passenger’s travel experience, resulting in inconvenience and other harms,” the DOT said Friday.

Airlines have fallen under increasing scrutiny in Washington over delayed luggage as baggage fees soar.

According to the Transportation Department, airlines collected $3.8 billion in checked baggage fees in 2015, despite nearly 2 million complaints of mishandled bags.

When their bags are delayed, travelers often have little recourse for demanding a refund.

In response to a requirement in a government spending bill, the Transportation Department issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking Friday as it determines how late a passenger’s checked bag must arrive before it is considered delayed and subject to a refund.

The DOT is looking to require airlines to refund the checked bag fees passengers pay for luggage that arrives anywhere from 12 hours to 18 hours behind schedule on domestic flights and 15 hours to 30 hours behind schedule on international flights.

The Transportation Department touted the rule last week but is now formally publishing it in the Federal Register, kicking off a 30-day comment period.

“While we have no doubt that airlines continue to invest in baggage handling infrastructure and technology to improve the efficiency and quality of their services, we also realize that baggage delays do occur and affect many consumers on a daily basis,” the DOT said.