When Jacqueline Tanzella flew from San Francisco to Florida recently for a family vacation, she paid $25 for Delta Airlines to check her bag. She landed around midnight; her suitcase didn't. Tanzella made it through the night by borrowing pajamas from an aunt and a new Superman toothbrush from her nephew. But she wasn't happy. "I didn't pay a $25 fee only to be inconvenienced by not having my bag until the next morning," she says. "Most retailers would reimburse me or give me a credit in a situation like this."
Baggage fees are getting scrutiny in expanded airline passenger protections announced by the Department of Transportation. One rule requires airlines to reimburse bag-check fees if your luggage is lost. That won't help fliers like Tanzella, whose bags are merely delayed, and some experts are grumbling that the protections lack bite. "It is only incremental improvement," says Rick Seaney, of FareCompare.com. The new protections will also increase the amount that airlines must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped (from a maximum of $800 now to a maximum of $1,300), limit the time international flights may sit on the tarmac, and require taxes and fees to be more clearly displayed in advertised fares.
Expect some negative side effects. For instance, less overbooking by airlines to avoid higher "bump" fees could put upward pressure on fares, says CrankyFlier.com's Brett Snyder. The new rules go into effect in August.