Magazine article Medical Economics

Don't Let Your Luggage Take Flight without You

Magazine article Medical Economics

Don't Let Your Luggage Take Flight without You

Article excerpt

Your plane lands, and you and your spouse grab your bags and skis from the luggage carousel and head for your hotel. Then you realize one bag is missing. Inside: your $600 camera, your $1,200 Italian suit, and your spouse's $1,000 ski suit and $450 boots.

Your bag has joined the 3.5 million pieces of luggage that vanish each year after being checked aboard U.S. airlines. Where do they go? "The scientific theory I like best," says humorist Mark Russell, "is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage." In fact, many of the bags have been stolen or misdirected. And while most do ultimately reach their destinations, many have been damaged or pilfered.

Airline officials play down the numbers. "That's only 0.5 percent of the 730 million bags handled by the airlines each year," says Tim Neale, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association of America. Furthermore, he says, 80 percent of missing bags are recovered within 24 hours.

Still, the statistics are small comfort when it's your bag that disappears. There's even less comfort when you realize you may not get reimbursed for the full value of your missing items. The airlines' mishandled luggage liability is limited to $1,250 per passenger on domestic flights and $634.90 per bag on international ones. Moreover, cameras, electronic equipment, jewelry, and cash aren't covered on domestic flights. Finally, you won't get full value for your items: Airlines pay only depreciated value.

To avoid worry about these shortcomings, take a few simple steps before your next trip:

* Shun obviously expensive luggage. Thieves are more likely to steal such bags. Pack valuables such as cameras and jewelry in carry-on bags. But bear in mind that airlines accept no liability for carry-on baggage on domestic flights. On international flights, it's limited to $400 per bag.

* Don't feel secure just because you've locked your bags. …

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