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Caribbean Airlines Fined for Improperly Limiting Reimbursements for Delayed Baggage

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined Caribbean Airlines, a carrier based in Trinidad and Tobago, $60,000 for limiting reimbursements for lost, damaged and delayed baggage to less than consumers were entitled under an international treaty.

“Both domestic and international travelers have a right to be fairly compensated for lost, delayed and damaged baggage,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “Consumers have the right to be treated fairly when they fly, and we will continue to take enforcement action when their rights are violated.”

Under the Montreal Convention, an international agreement that sets liability limits for international air transportation, airlines are liable for damages caused by delayed baggage up to a limit that is the equivalent of just under $1,800 in U.S. currency, unless the carrier has taken all reasonable measures to prevent the damage or it was impossible to take these measures.  The Convention requires carriers to compensate passengers for loss, damage or delay of baggage on international flights in most cases. It also forbids carriers from setting a lower baggage compensation limit for international flights or from refusing to accept liability for the loss of any types of baggage, such as jewelry, electronics, or other high-value items.

A review of Caribbean’s website last spring by the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office led to an investigation of the carrier’s baggage liability policies, revealing numerous violations of the Convention between March 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011. Caribbean routinely told passengers that it was not liable for the loss of irreplaceable or high-value items such as electronics, jewelry, cameras or cash, and the carrier’s website also stated that it would not compensate passengers for the loss of these items. In a number of cases, passengers found that some of these expensive items had been removed from carry-on bags they were required to check after boarding because of cabin space limitations.

In addition, Caribbean violated the Convention by regularly refusing to pay claims for damaged baggage and by limiting payments for buying necessities due to delayed bags to $25-$75 per day. Caribbean also frequently required passengers to file a report on their missing property before leaving the airport terminal, which unreasonably limited the time they had to discover that items were missing from their baggage.

Friday, October 28, 2011