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Travel Troubleshooter: Extra fee in error for checked luggage

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • December 8, 2012 - 1:12 PM

Q I traveled to Europe on a code-share flight between Delta Air Lines and KLM. Before I left the United States, I carefully checked the size and weight restrictions for my two bags on both the Delta and KLM websites, because I'm an artist and I needed to take rolls of paper. I made sure my bags complied.

The trip from Portland, Ore., to Copenhagen, Denmark, went off without a hitch; I paid $50 to check a second bag. However, on the flight from Toulouse, France, to Portland, Ore., I had to pay 200 euros for the second bag. When the gate agent saw my second bag, she declared it "too long," she never measured it. Although the flight was on KLM, the airport staff worked for Air France.

When I landed in Portland, I sought a Delta agent and had the bag measured. That agent put a note in the file that the bag was within their size limits. I called Delta's customer service line the next day, but instead of issuing the promised refund, that agent told me to write a letter. Since then, I've been bounced among Delta, KLM and Air France, ending with a denial from Air France. Can you help?

A You shouldn't have been charged 200 euros for your checked bag. That may have been the Air France policy, but you were flying on KLM.

It's too bad you didn't take this trip before the new federal regulations went into effect that say the baggage rules of the first carrier apply to your entire flight. Then this would have been a slam-dunk in your favor. A quick, polite e-mail to the Transportation Department would have generated a speedy refund from Delta.

But you were trapped in a code-sharing nightmare. For those not familiar, code-sharing is the questionable practice of one airline selling seats on another airline's flight. In your case, you bought a ticket on Delta, but the flight was operated by KLM and the airport staff in Toulouse worked for Air France, another Delta code-share partner.

When you contacted Delta for help, it punted to KLM, which in turn passed the buck to Air France. I contacted Delta, which, unsurprisingly, referred the matter to Air France. After more back-and-forth, the airline agreed to refund the 200 euros.

Christopher Elliott is ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog at www.elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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