Passengers Struggle to Get Reimbursed for Damaged or Lost Luggage
Airline passengers face a tough time getting reimbursed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for lost, damaged or stolen items, according to a new study.
Stratos Jet Charters, an air charter service provider, surveyed 4,294 TSA claims that were resolved by the agency in 2016 and early 2017 and found that travelers' claims for lost or damaged items during this period were "more likely to be denied than approved."
In a 14-months span between January 2016 and February 2017, there were more than 7,900 TSA claims filed for everything from property loss and damage to personal injury.
According to the data, the No. 1 items with the most claims was baggage, cases, and purses. People’s luggage was most reported as missing or damaged when passengers landed at their final destination in 2016, accounting for nearly 18 percent all claims reported that year.
More than 1 in 10 claims also involved clothing or computers and computer accessories. In fact, baggage and electronics are among the most common items that are damaged when put through security, and checking valuable items at the airport could get them stolen without the owner even realizing.
Currency, sporting equipment, and food and drink were the least common items to be mentioned in TSA claims filed by travelers.
Of the 7,993 TSA claims analyzed, more than half were resolved, the report said.
Despite reports – and video evidence – of airport workers stealing valuables from passengers’ luggage, more than half of all claims submitted for lost or damaged belongings were denied in 2016. In the case of denied claims or those that aren’t responded to promptly, travelers have the option to file a suit against TSA with the U.S. District Court. Processing of claims can take up to six months, according to information provided by TSA, and claims are generally denied if TSA determines your bag was not opened for “physical inspection.”
Less than 1 in 4 claims were approved in full, and 12 percent were settled between the TSA and the traveler engaged in the dispute.
In some cases, TSA is likely to deem your claim more valid than others. According to the 4,294 finalized claims from 14-month period we examined, nearly half involving travel accessories were approved in full. These could include low-cost items like charging cables and adapters, as well as toiletry items like shaving kits and hair products.
Home decor, which accounted for 239 of the 7,993 total claims filed between January 2016 and February 2017, was approved in full 40 percent of the time, and almost a third of all claims for items classified as food or drink were approved thus far.
Less than 10 percent of claims for jewelry were paid in full, despite 831 claims being filed as either lost or damaged.
Nearly 3 in 4 claims filed for jewelry were denied, the report said. More than two-thirds of claims for currency and cameras were also denied in 2016, and more than one-third of claims for travel accessories – the items most likely to be approved in full – were denied in 2016.
In 2016, more than 1 in 5 claims filed for computers or accessories were settled. In a similar category, 20 percent of claims for personal electronics were also settled.
Further, 14 percent of claims regarding sports equipment and supplies, home decor, and hunting and fishing items were settled, as well as 13 percent of personal accessory claims and 12 percent of claims dealing with baggage, cases, and purses, along with cosmetics and grooming. Every other category of items mentioned in TSA claims in 2016 was settled less than 12 percent of the time.
Regardless of the nature of the claim, a TSA claim is more likely to be denied than approved, the study said.
Less than 32 percent of all property damage claims fully processed were completely approved, and nearly half were denied. Just over 1 in 5 claims for property loss processed received full compensation, while 68 percent were completely denied.
Between 2010 and 2014, there were more than 30,000 reports of missing valuables, and more than 25,000 of those claims came from checked baggage, with another 5,600 occurring at security checkpoints. Which airport is considered the most guilty? JFK International Airport, with more claims of loss and theft than any other airport in the country.
Only 5 percent of personal injury claims have been fully approved as of this writing, while nearly half have been denied.
TSA paid millions of dollars in claims for approved and settled cases between 2010 and 2014. But the report said there’s still no guarantee you’ll get all the money you feel you’re owed for your lost, stolen, or damaged goods or personal injury.
In 2016, cases that were settled averaged a payout of just over $260. Those that were approved in full averaged an amount of $135. The most expensive type of claim was personal injury, when a passenger is hurt while traveling through security measures (including pat-downs) at the airport. Those cases averaged just over $420 for passengers with claims that were approved or settled.
Computer-related claims had the highest compensation in 2016, earning passengers just $460 in retribution. Camera claims that were approved earned $320, and hunting and fishing items were worth $268 in damages. Travel accessories and office equipment and supplies were worth the least, earning less than $100 per claim, on average.