If you travel internationally, you should read this piece Christopher Elliott, a syndicated travel columnist, posted  on his blog this morning. It is about an April 1 notice by the US Department of Transportation, where they have issued a warning to air carriers about their published limits of liability for items in international checked bags and code-share flights.

In it, the Department of Transportation warns airlines it is illegal for them to exclude their liability for loss of valuable items on international flights as they now do. According to the Montreal Convention, which the USA ratified in 2003, air carriers are liable for losses up to 1000 SDRs of loss or delay of items in any customers’ baggage they accept, so long as the baggage itself or that the damage was not reasonable to prevent.

(An SDR is an international currency unit set by the International Monetary Fund, whose price is determined daily and published on their website. As of Friday, 1000 SDRs was equivalent to about $ 1,500.)

The notice also takes airlines to task for attempting to shirk responsibility for their obligations on code-share flights. The notice states that the airline whose name appears on the ticket is responsible for guaranteeing their level of service for the whole itinerary regardless of the carrier actually supplying the service.

Say you were flying from Milwaukee to Frankfurt Germany on Lufthansa, and you wanted to check two bags. Your itinerary had you flying on LH 5851 to O’Hare, then LH 9151 to Frankfurt. Even though both of those flights are operated by United, you would be treated as a Lufthansa passenger for the whole flight: Meaning United could not charge you their bag fee of $ 40.00 for two checked bags, because Lufthansa allows passengers traveling to and from the US two checked bags for free.

Airlines have 90 days to correct these discrepancies, or the Department of Transportation will begin criminal prosecution of the airlines.

[Government Says Airlines are Responsible for Valuables Checked on International Flights on Elliott.org]

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