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DOT Fines United Airlines for Providing Inaccurate Information About Baggage Liability

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined United Airlines $20,000 for providing inaccurate information to passengers about how much compensation they could potentially receive for lost, damaged or delayed baggage on international flights.

“Both domestic and international travelers have a right to know how much they might be compensated for lost or delayed baggage,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.  “We are committed to protecting airline consumers, and we will continue to take enforcement action when necessary.”

Under the Montreal Convention, an international agreement that sets liability limits for international air transportation, airlines are liable for damages caused by lost, damaged or delayed baggage up to a 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per passenger, an amount that is currently the equivalent of just over $1,800 in U.S. currency.  In November 2009, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office notified U.S. and foreign carriers that the international liability limit would be increased from 1,000 SDRs to the new limit effective Dec. 30, 2009, and advised them to revise their notices to passengers to reflect the change.

In January 2011, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office learned that United had given a number of passengers ticket wallets printed after the increase took effect that continued to list the old figure of 1,000 SDRs as the limit on baggage liability.  However, the Enforcement Office found no evidence that United had used the old liability limit when handling baggage-related claims after the increase went into effect. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011