At the end of a recent Elliott.org post about TSA damage claims for luggage, I invited readers to review the raw data released by the agency. And many of my readers did.


Special thanks to Jeffrey Harper and Charles Owen for downloading and dissecting the data. I’ve distilled the numbers further (note: I’m no math whiz, but I consulted my better half, who has an MBA and takes full responsibility for the graphs in this post).

As you can see in the above graph, the agency is settling far fewer claims as a percentage of overall claims. This graph doesn’t include claims that are still being processed, were canceled or are being litigated. They’re based on raw numbers released under the Freedom of Information Act.

This is pretty revealing. The agency has paid out far less, on average, as time has progressed. It follows the same trend line as total payouts graphed at the start of the story.

Owen theorizes,

There’s clearly a downward trend, maybe because of the bag fees decreasing the amount of checked baggage. Later data may be biased due to claims still being processed.

A review of the comments also raises other possible explanations, such as fewer valuable items being checked or a shift in TSA policy.

Either way, the conclusion seems inescapable: If you check a bag, TSA is far less likely to reimburse you than in years past. If it does, it’s likely to pay only a fraction of what you’re asking for.