Mishandled Bag Reimbursements Land on DOT To-do List

A proposed federal rule would ensure passengers get back at least checked-bag fees for mishandled luggage.

Two passengers whose belongings were lost or damaged at Pittsburgh International Airport received a combined $72.61 from TSA through the first four months of this year. The agency denied or is considering 15 claims, records show. In the last four months of 2002, the agency paid 18 local passengers almost $6,800 for lost or damaged belongings, or $376 per claim.

Airlines are responsible for claims when problems occur as bags are checked in, loaded onto planes and unloaded, carried during flights, transferred from one plane to another during connections and conveyed to baggage-claim areas after flights.

TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the agency pays when bags or their contents are damaged or lost while in TSA custody. TSA pays when it can't determine who damaged a bag or lost its contents, but airlines generally assume responsibility for bags lost altogether, Davis said.

"We have become more adept at investigating our claims and discerning if there is any TSA responsibility," Davis said. "That's important because, unlike airlines, we're dealing with taxpayer money."

She said the agency placed more cameras and supervisors in areas where it handles checked bags and hired people to investigate claims.

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