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Your Luggage on Airlines

publication date: Sep 5, 2014
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author/source: Dean Dunham

Dean DunhamThousands of holidaymakers and travellers will either lose their luggage or experience a delay in retrieving it, when going away or returning home.  Whilst watching an empty carousel go round without your luggage is a horrible feeling you do have rights if this happens to you. Here’s what you need to know.

Are the airlines responsible for luggage?       

The law that governs this is called “The Montreal Convention” and this says that airlines are responsible for all bags that they allow you to check-in.

What if my luggage is damaged?

If your bags arrive on the carousel damaged the first thing that you should do is report the problem to the service desk in the baggage collection hall. They will ask you to complete a Property Irregularity Report (PIR). This will record the fact that your luggage has been damaged and describe the damage that has occurred. Make sure that you take a copy of the form away with you.

The next step is to take pictures of the damaged case (preferably whilst at the airport with the airport in the background) so that you have proof. If anything has been damaged inside the case take pictures of that too. When the airline contacts you about the damage you can supply them with the photos and ask them to pay you compensation.

What if my luggage is lost or delayed?

If your bag doesn’t arrive you need to fill out a PIR as with damaged luggage. This time it is important that you accurately describe your luggage on the form to give the baggage handlers the best possible chance to locate it for you. If you still have it you should also give them your baggage ticket which contains a bar code. This will link them electronically to your luggage and should help them to locate it.

For the first 21 days the airline will treat your luggage as "delayed" which means that they will not compensate you during this time for it being lost. However, If you’re abroad during this period, the airline will be obliged to cover costs of “essential items”, such as toiletries, underwear, basic clothing items needed and laundry costs. Make sure that you keep receipts for everything that you buy. Compensation usually comes in the form of an upfront cash payment, a fixed daily budget or reimbursement once your claim and receipts have been submitted.

If your luggage does not show up after 21 days the Convention states that the airline must treat your baggage as lost, meaning that you can now start demanding compensation. You will now need to give the airline an accurate description of exactly what was in your luggage and its value. As always, the more proof that you have (such as receipts) the easier the claim.

Are there any time limits to make a claim?

The Convention sets the following time limits for making a claim:

  • Damaged baggage – seven days from receipt of the damaged items
  • Delayed baggage – 21 days from the date of delivery
  • Lost baggage – there’s no time limit but it’s advisable to make the complaint as soon as possible, once your luggage has either been missing for 21 days or the airline has admitted they’ve lost it.

How much can I claim?    

This is the sting in the tail, as unless you have made a “Special Declaration of Interest” before you travel the most the airline will have to pay out is €1,131 per passenger.

So, if you have something valuable in your luggage declare it to the airline when you check-in by making a Special Declaration of Interest. If the airline accepts this it will mean that they will pay out more if your luggage is lost or the item you have declared is damaged.

Would I be better off claiming on my insurance policy?

It’s definitely worth checking as often the answer to this is yes. However, don’t forget to check the excess charges in order to properly evaluate if this route will pay out more in cash.

For more information about your travel rights or any other legal or consumer matter visit Dean’s website.