Photo: Sorbis

Travelers Can Get Paid Up to $3,800 for Airline Baggage Delays. Here’s How.

Airports + Flying
by Alex Bresler Mar 7, 2024

Let’s say, after a long day of flying, perhaps made longer by delays or cancellations, you touch down at your destination. You go to baggage claim to get your checked bags. You watch as the other passengers collect their luggage, but yours never comes. It’s not the worst thing that can happen during a travel day, but delayed baggage can be a serious nuisance. Maybe you’re on a business trip and left with only the sweatpants you wore on the plane. Maybe you checked essential items that you need for everyday life. The questions then arise: Who’s responsible for delayed bags, and can travelers get reimbursed for their missing belongings?

A spate of TikTok videos chronicle exactly this dilemma. Some are personal stories from travelers who received compensation from airlines, such as the video below featuring a check for $531.58 from United Airlines with a text overlay explaining that it was reimbursement for delayed baggage.

The caption reads, “Things I learned from a TikTok actually paid off. Don’t accept that first offer! It was like $50 for my grievances but a video on [TikTok said] that the minimum is $500 and I stood 10 toes until it was approved.”

@froandtravel Things I learned on TikTok actually paid off 🤗Dont accept that first offer! It was like $50 for my grievances but a video on here that sad the minimum is $500 and I stood ten toes till it was approved 🤪 #airlinehacks #delayedbaggagerefund #unitedairlinestiktok #travelhacks #airlinetravelhacks #delayedbags #airporttips #savemoneyfortravel ♬ Run Me My Money – Susan Carol

Another TikToker shared a twopart story about being rerouted on a United flight to the mainland US from Maui after her original Alaska Airlines flight was canceled. After 48 hours, she submitted a claim with United for delayed baggage, eventually receiving a check for $290 based on receipts she submitted to replace essential items that she’d packed in her checked bag. When her luggage ended up being delayed for nine days, four days longer than United’s limit for delayed bags to be considered lost, she was issued a second check to bring her total reimbursement up to $1,500 after citing the airline’s reimbursement policy for lost baggage.

Other videos share blanket advice for delayed baggage rather than personal stories. TikToker and attorney Erika Kullberg, known on the platform as Money Lawyer Erika, was interviewed by Yahoo Finance after posting a sketch on TikTok that advises travelers on what to say to a United customer service agent in the event of a delayed bag. The video currently has 3.2 million views.

@erikakullberg Free money that United customer service doesn’t want you knowing about #personalfinance #moneytok #airlines #money ♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

If you find yourself in a similar situation and want to ensure you’re compensated fairly, the question remains: What’s the actual policy for delayed baggage?

What’s the official policy for delayed baggage?

According to the US Department of Transportation, “airlines are required to compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed, or lost.” There are maximum liability limits, however. For domestic flights, airlines are required to pay up to but no more than $3,800 per passenger for “reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses” in the event of delayed baggage. For international flights, the limit is approximately $1,700.

Though unlikely, airlines are allowed to reimburse passengers beyond the maximum liability limit, but they’re not allowed to set their own daily reimbursement limit.

One exception to the maximum liability limit for domestic travel is assistive devices that aid passengers with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids, or CPAP machines. In the event that such devices are lost, airlines must reimburse passengers for the original cost of the device, or the cost of repair in the event that an assistive device is damaged. The maximum liability limit is still enforced for international travel.

What’s the United Airlines baggage delay policy?

United echoes the DOT’s policy on its website, reiterating the maximum liability limit of $3,800 for domestic flights, exempting assistive devices. (The airline also notes that it’s not responsible for “high value, fragile, or perishable items” among other exclusions outlined in the Contract of Carriage.) For international flights, United states that its liability for damaged, delayed, or lost bags is approximately $9.07 per pound up to $640 for checked bags.

Delayed bags must be reported within 24 hours for domestic flights and 21 days for international flights. You can report delayed bags at the airport, online, by phone, or via the United app.

Once a claim is filed, passengers are responsible for submitting receipts for essential expenses in order to be reimbursed. If a bag is delayed for more than five days, the airline considers it lost and will compensate travelers $1,500 per checked bag without receipts, subtracting any reimbursement amount that was previously issued when the luggage was considered delayed.

The policy seems straightforward enough, as does the process of filing a claim for delayed baggage. But if you watch enough TikTok videos, it would appear that knowledge of United’s policy and persistence are key to getting fairly compensated.

When asked to comment on its delayed baggage policy and reports of personal experiences, United declined an interview and sent a referral to the baggage issues page of its website.

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