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Frustrated flier claims baggage runaround, sues Delta

Susan Miller made it to Las Vegas on Delta Air Lines. Her suitcase didn’t.

The airline, she says, told her that day in November 2010 there was nothing they could do. So stuck without essentials, the Key West, Fla., woman spent $315 of her own money to buy some warm clothes, replacement medications and toiletries to tide her over until her suitcase showed up. Which it did, several days later.

It’s a story replayed countless times every day in airports across the nation. But Miller took a step that few travelers ever do: she filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and other passengers against Delta this month, asserting the airline failed to tell her it has a legal obligation to reimburse travelers up to $3,300 if bags are lost, delayed or damaged in transit. She is requesting both compensatory and punitive damages.

“She’s mad as heck,” said Miller’s attorney, David K. Tucker of Coral Gables, Fla. Miller made a claim with Delta requesting her expenses be covered several weeks after the incident, but was rejected, he said.

“People don’t know what their rights are,” Tucker said. “Therefore, they’ll get maybe just $25 or $50 (when their bag is lost) and get the runaround and be on the hook for the rest of their expenses.”

An official for Delta said in an e-mail that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida asserts that Delta has a contract with passengers to reimburse them up to that $3,300 amount if their bags are delayed. “Delta ignores the contract and often tells passengers they are only entitled to $25 to $50 in daily expenses ... Passengers are left in the dark when their bags are delayed.”

The airline’s practices could potentially affect a huge number of passengers and involve an enormous amount of money, according to the lawsuit, which says that in the first 10 months of 2010, Delta reported receiving more than 270,000 reports of lost, delayed or misplaced baggage. “Such tactics allow Delta to pocket millions and millions it would have had to pay out if it had abided by its contracts with passengers,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also claims that signs are not clearly posted informing passengers of their rights in this matter: “Instead (Delta’s) frontline employees routinely deny that this obligation exists and/or informs consumers there is an artificial dollar or daily limit on claims for reimbursement.”

In the case of his client, Tucker writes, the company “did not as much offer her a blanket to stay warm.”

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