ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, May 19, 2017

Airline Luggage Fees: “Timely” Delivery is Not a Day Late

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that carriers may have to reimburse luggage fees to passengers whose luggage arrives late.

A passenger sued US Airways (which later merged with American Airlines) in 2010 after paying a $15 bag fee for checked luggage on a flight from Colorado to California (wow, that seems so “cheap” now, just seven years later). The bag was delayed by a day. The passenger filed suit for breach of contract, alleging that US Airways promised her timely delivery of her checked bag upon arrival in exchange for a $15 fee, and the passenger did not get her bag until the day after arrival. The passenger asked for a reimbursement of the fee. The airline declined, claiming that since the contract did not spell out a remedy for the delay of delivery of the luggage, there could be none. The passenger filed a class-action lawsuit, which was dismissed by a the district court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The panel held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the airline promised under the terms of transportation to deliver her bag when she landed. The panel held that because plaintiff’s claim was for breach of contract of a voluntarily assumed contractual undertaking, and she pleaded breach of contract, the claim was not preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act. The case can thus move forward on the merits.  

This case brings a bit of good news to passengers in times of incredibly strict action taken by airlines against their own passengers. I still personally doubt whether individual action such as this will have much effect on the industry at large. Regulation is warranted, in my opinion. But until that happens (or not), some legal opposition and court wins may ease the situation in this field a bit.

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