The Washington Times recently reported that British Airways passengers may proceed with their lawsuit for compensation for lost baggage. British Airways loses 23 bags per 1,000 passengers carried, a rate more than 60 percent higher than the industry’s average, according to the Air Transport Users Council.
The Warsaw Convention limits to $9.07 per pound what a passenger can recover against an airline for lost luggage, up to a maximum of $1500 per bag. The frustrated passengers’ class action lawsuit (pdf) seeks to recover the full value of items lost, even if it exceeds the Warsaw Convention’s monetary limit, because British Airways prematurely auctions personal items that inspectors remove from baggage– such as iPods, digital cameras, computer laptops, and mobile phones– instead of giving the passengers a reasonable chance to reclaim them. The passengers say that the airline auctions off items which have only been ‘missing’ for a few weeks.
British Airways says the suit overreaches. Nonetheless, federal judge Nicholas G. Garaufis has permitted the lawsuit to continue (pdf). The passengers may have found an ally in Judge Garaufis. But proving willful misconduct — required before the passengers can bust the Warsaw limits — will be difficult. My prediction: the passengers’ lawsuit, like their baggage, will ultimately be lost.