Travel Insurance Coverage for Luggage

airline damaged baggage

Oops - not what you want to see on the carousel. My bag wasn't quite this bad!

Lost or Damaged Luggage – Who Pays?

It was such a great purchase, an absolutely beautiful retro-designed suitcase covered in tweed fabric with a leather belt around it. There were 9 flights ahead of me and a lot of checking in and out over a month long trip. I was confident that this was the ultimate spinner. Four wheels meant no sore back or dragging that case behind me. It packed so well, or maybe I am the whiz packer, that I had almost ½ of it empty. I loved that suitcase. Note the past tense.

When it circled around on the baggage carousel after the first two flights, it was clear that my wonderful new suitcase had been abused. Badly. Not only was the fabric marred with black grease on all sides, the zipper was split in one place (thank goodness for that belt), and the fabric was torn on the edges. It turned out to be a complete waste of time to file a report. The second airline blamed the first airline and nothing was going anywhere. Luckily nothing inside the case was missing or damaged so the claim was limited to the brand new case itself.

Luggage damage, loss or theft of items within is not a slam dunk claim. Upon my return to the US, I debated how to claim the loss. I had several options. I could forge forth trying to claim it with the first airline since it was documented by its partner overseas. My travel insurance company would no doubt handle it.

Here is what you need to know. When traveling within the US, federal law sets the limit of recovery at $3300. Not bad but depending on your clothes spending habits that could be the cost of one outfit and that doesn’t include the Manolos. Here is the bad news: the Warsaw Convention limits, which most international airlines use as a guide, sets recovery at about $9.07 per pound. If you are allowed only 44 pounds per bag, as is typical, that comes in at about $400. That wouldn’t have even covered the cost of my new spinner. That is to say that the US airlines have a much higher limit for reimbursement than international airlines.

Here is the answer to protecting your investment in your suitcase and its contents. Excess baggage coverage is available for a relatively minimal cost at check-in, particularly inexpensive from foreign airlines. Who would have known? Has anyone at check in ever offered the coverage to you?

Another option is travel insurance. However, you will never receive enough from a regular policy without additional coverage. The norm seems to be $1000 – $2000 per policy. Your credit card may provide some coverage also. Possibly among all potential insurers – airline, travel insurance, credit card – you may eke out enough to cover a loss. However, and here is the kicker, you need all the receipts (yah, right) for your clothing, suitcase and Manolos and then they will all be depreciated by the airline.

Be wise and get the excess baggage coverage from the airline if it is an international airline (cheap coverage). If it is a domestic airline and your bag and its contents are worth more than $3300 then spring for airline excess coverage. It would be a sad ending to a memorable trip not to have a means to recover your loss.

My spinner was the only issue for me, not the contents. The suitcase manufacturer, in a great public relations move, replaced my suitcase with a new one. Thanks, Samsonite! Because great customer service deserves my loyalty, I now am a lifelong fan. How have you dealt with baggage damages or losses? Let us know!

2 Responses

  1. David from besttravelinsurancequote.co.uk - March 4, 2010

    Hi Pam

    Interesting post. Here in South Africa we get that a lot! It’s not even funny anymore. The worst is that you can absolutely do nothing about it. All you can do is wait till they eventually get back to you on your questions and when you phone costumer support you end up speaking to someone that can’t even speak English… it’s a joke.

  2. Pam - March 5, 2010

    Thanks, David, for your input. The world isn’t so different from place to place, is it? My new replacement suitcase is supposed to withstand anything. We shall see. Someday soon I hope to use it to visit your country. It is at the top of my travel wish list!

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