Travel tip: Don’t put your laptop in your checked luggage
December 21, 2022
On a recent trip, I learned a valuable lesson. Most airlines won’t reimburse you for electronics if they’re in a checked bag that gets lost.
How did I find that out?
When I arrived at the Southwest ticket counter at SeaTac Airport, I had three items – my purse, a bag of Christmas presents, and a small carry-on bag with my computer in it – plus a bag I was going to check.
Since I hadn’t traveled for a while, I was fuzzy on the procedures. I also was out of breath after wearing my N95 mask and dragging my heavy suitcase and other items across the sky bridge from the parking garage.
The Southwest ticket agent seemed irritated with me and was rude. She explained I could only take two items on the plane so I’d either need to consolidate my three items or check my carryon. Southwest allows you to have two bags for no cost, she said, so there would be no charge for my carryon.
Since my Christmas gifts were delicate, I was worried consolidation would damage them, so decided to check my carryon with my laptop in it.
Since I couldn’t remember how to tear apart the baggage tickets I had printed out, I handed them to the ticket agent. After she put my big suitcase on the belt, she grabbed my carryon and threw it on the belt. I said, “My computer’s in there.” She didn’t say anything, and she didn’t give my baggage receipts.
When I arrived in Sacramento, neither of bags were on the conveyor belt. At the Southwest lost bag area, my daughter and I found my big suitcase. However, my carryon was delayed or lost.
I got nervous when the baggage agent said she couldn’t find a second bag for me in her computer system.
We had the choice of having the bag delivered or getting a $100 coupon for another flight. The baggage agent said we’d get a call the next morning about how to get the bag. She said since there was a computer in it, TSA may have held the bag for inspection. You aren’t supposed to put a computer in checked luggage.
I was upset that the ticket agent hadn’t told me that.
After no call was received about my bag the next morning, I called Southwest. My anxiety level went up even higher when the customer service representative said Southwest and other airlines don’t reimburse customers for electronics in lost bags.
She did say the bag was at the airport. I was amazed that it was found and had arrived.
I asked the customer service representative who I should complain to about the ticket agent who didn’t tell me that laptops shouldn’t be put in checked luggage. She said to ask for the supervisor at the airport lost bags department.
The supervisor listened to my complaint, but he also said I should file an online complaint. He said it would go directly to the ticket agent’s section. He apologized for all the trouble that we’d had.
So, beware. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s hard to believe that after all the consumer research that I do, I didn’t know about this.
Hi Rita, I think them saying they don't reimburse for electronics is false. The DOT web page for airlines losing luggage makes no mention of a liability exclusion for electronics: https://www.transportation.gov/lost-delayed-or-damaged-baggage But it does mention those specific details can be found in the "airlines' contracts of carriage."
Also: "For domestic flights, the maximum liability amount is $3,800, according to DOT regulations" https://www.rd.com/article/lost-luggage-reimbursement/
So I think had you not got your new laptop back you'd eventually get a refund from them and the person you talked to didn't understand the laws that protect you. There's so many professionals that fly every day with all their electronic equipment for their work that to deny a reimbursement would not go well for them.
I bet if you edit your article to mention the airline by name and their language in "contract of carriage" then send a link to the article to the higher ups in customer service at the corporate office you'll probably get clarification/an apology.
Posted by: Deane Rimerman | December 24, 2022 at 07:10 PM
Thanks. I'll look into it.
Posted by: Rita | December 24, 2022 at 10:48 PM
So sorry that happened to you. I always carry my laptop with me on the plane. I carry a bag that is large enough to stuff my purse into and put the laptop in it.
Posted by: Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski | December 26, 2022 at 02:32 PM
Yes, it was quite an experience that I won't repeat. Your method sounds good.
Posted by: Rita Robison | December 26, 2022 at 04:54 PM
In India, we are not allowed to put our laptop and other electronic devices in our checked in luggage and I did wonder why. Makes so much sense!
Posted by: Corinne Rodrigues | December 26, 2022 at 11:09 PM
What a hard lesson to learn.
Posted by: Carol Ann Cassara | December 27, 2022 at 07:01 AM
Yes, it was a hard lesson. I'm glad just the bag was just delayed and not lost. I just bought a new Apple desktop computer. Another $2,000 for an Apple laptop would have been a stretch for the budget.
Posted by: Rita Robison | December 27, 2022 at 09:03 AM