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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Baggage

A number of issues are associated with traveling with luggage—security concerns; check-in times; lost or stolen items; and a host of restrictions, allowances, and fees. (The "Packing and Dressing for Airline Security" section details security issues pertaining to baggage.)

Fortunately, the odds of having your baggage lost are fairly low. In 2002, less than 0.5% of enplaned passengers filed mishandled baggage reports. If your baggage is lost or damaged, or if items are stolen, contact your airline directly. (Most major carriers have designated phone numbers for baggage issues.) It is important to know that the Department of Transportation limits liability claims to $2,500 per passenger (maximum) for lost or damaged checked baggage. (This does not include jewelry, cash, equipment.)

Now that the TSA is hand-searching some checked baggage, you may find that your baggage has been opened after check-in. If you have a question or complaint, call the TSA's Consumer Response Center (866.289.9673).

Restrictions, Allowances, and Fees

The FAA mandates carry-on baggage restrictions. Passengers are limited to one carry-on bag plus a personal item such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop computer. The one carry-on bag must fit in an overhead compartment or under the seat. It should not exceed 45-51 linear inches (length + width + height) or weigh more than 40 pounds. (The precise linear dimensions vary by airline.)

Every airline has a free baggage allowance, which is the maximum number and size of bags you can carry on or check in without additional charge. Depending on the airline, the free baggage allowance permits 2 to 3 checked bags that weigh less than 70 pounds each and do not exceed 62 linear inches. Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United charge for bags weighing more than 50 pounds.

Excess and oversized baggage fees are charged if you exceed the free baggage allowance. These fees run anywhere from $40 to $80 for the first additional bag. Most airlines will not allow bags weighing more than 100 pounds—although many will allow you to take one sporting goods item, such as skis or golf clubs, for no additional fee.

The airlines with the most generous baggage allowances and lowest excess baggage fees are AirTran, JetBlue, and Southwest, all of which allow three checked bags for free, with a $40 to $50 excess bag charge. The most restrictive and costly airlines are America West, American, Continental, United, and US Airways, all of which allow just two checked bags and charge at least $80 for each additional bag. For example, if you intend to check four bags on Southwest you'll pay $40; on United, $160.

Go to http://www.businesstravelalmanac.com if you would like to see detailed information and comparisons of airline baggage restrictions and allowances and excess and oversized baggage fees.

Baggage Services

If you don't like the idea of a security guard rummaging through your panties or expensive computer equipment, want to avoid excess and oversized baggage fees, or don't want to be troubled with baggage check-in period, you can employ a luggage service to pick up your bags from your home or office and deliver them to your destination. Services typically offer next day, 2-day or 3 to 5 day delivery. Rates vary widely and depend on weight and number of items and pickup and delivery locations.

Luggage Express 866.744.7224 http://www.luggageexpress.com

Virtual Bellhop 877.235.5467 http://www.virtualbellhop.com

Sports Express 800.357.4174 http://www.sportsexpress.com

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