8:42 PM

Can Delta withstand
a $136 billion hit?

A Philippines court has fined Dutch airline KLM $238,000 for losing Jose Tiongco’s bag eight years ago while en route from Manila to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he was giving a lecture at a World Health Organization conference. Tiongco claimed his reputation was tarnished when he stood before his audience in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers.

As we might expect, KLM is appealing the decision. I suspect all legal eyes from the legacy carriers are watching this case, because if left to stand, this award would set major precedent and cost them a bundle:

Delta Air Lines, the third-biggest airline flying in the United States, lost more bags than any other carrier in 2005. Its customers filed 573,419 lost bag reports.
Delta's potential liability if every one of those bags resulted in this kind of punitive damages would be a stunning $136 billion!

Of course, that’s not going to happen because most bags eventually turn up. But every one of us knows someone who has had to make that speech to the Board of Directors in shorts and sneakers, or (like me) has had to hit the Wally World at midnight in a strange town buying something cheap from China to wear on a business trip after XYZ Airlines sent my bags to God knows where.

Luggage roulette, not my game. And when my bags actually follow me across the country and are spotted riding the carousel, I still marvel at the feat. I've been burned with lost luggage more times than I can count, and when the system actually works, it's a freakin' miracle.

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