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Emirates Fined for Improperly Limiting Reimbursements for Delayed Baggage

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined the Dubai-based airline Emirates $100,000 for limiting compensation for lost, damaged, and delayed baggage to less than consumers were entitled under an international treaty.

“All air passengers, regardless of whether they are taking domestic or international flights, deserve to be compensated fairly for lost, damaged or delayed baggage,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “We will continue to take enforcement action when necessary to protect airline consumers.”

Under the Montreal Convention, an international agreement that sets liability limits for international air transportation, airlines are liable for damages caused by lost, delayed or damaged baggage up to a limit that is the equivalent of approximately $1,820 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 forbids carriers from setting a lower baggage compensation limit for international flights, and does not allow carriers to refuse to provide compensation for jewelry, electronics or other specific types of items. U.S. aviation statutes require airlines to comply with the Convention.

Based on a consumer complaint received by DOT, the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings investigated Emirates’ handling of baggage claims for flights to or from the United States and found numerous violations of the Montreal Convention. In many cases, Emirates denied reimbursement for expensive items such as lost electronics, jewelry, and cameras. In its written responses to passengers, Emirates stated that its contract of carriage limited its liability for such items and incorrectly claimed that its practice complied with the Convention. Emirates’ website also stated that the carrier was not liable for valuables damaged while in the carrier’s custody. In addition, the carrier often provided limited or no compensation for costs related to delayed baggage while claiming in responses to passengers that limiting compensation was allowed by the Convention.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011