Passengers rights – baggage problems

What rights does a passenger have in case of a baggage problem?

Baggage problems are a nightmare of many passengers. Damage to, delay, or even worse, loss of meticulously packed belongings might significantly complicate your journey.  It’s good to remember that when you entrust your baggage to the airline you have certain rights.

You are entitled to compensation for damage to, delay or loss of your baggage.

When are you entitled to compensation for damage to or loss of your baggage?

Primarily, if you report the situation to the lost property office (so-called Lost & Found) at the airport through filling in a PIR (Property Irregularity Report). Then you should file a complaint to the carrier.

Time limits for filing a complaint are very short, which is why it’s best to act as quickly as possible:

  • destruction or damage to your baggage should be reported within 7 days from reporting the situation at the airport,
  • baggage delay – within 21 days from the day you turned your baggage in.

Reimbursement of reasonable costs for baggage problems.

When your baggage is delayed you have the right to apply for recovery of costs for things you bought while waiting for it (clothes, shoes, hygiene products). Remember to keep all receipts! Moreover, the carrier should also deliver your baggage to the place you indicate. If you decide to reclaim the baggage at the airport in person, the airline should cover transport costs.

You should also check if your delayed baggage is not damaged. In that case, when reclaiming your baggage, you have to make sure to receive a proper written confirmation from the delivery person or baggage help desk, depending on the way the baggage is reclaimed.

In case of a delay, as well as loss of your baggage, it’s also good to apply to the carrier for payment of a daily allowance for purchase of all necessities (such an option can be included in the carrier’s Rules of Procedure, but this is not a rule, which is why it’s best to check it first). These include e.g. clothes or personal hygiene products. If you bought them at your own expense, you are entitled to reimbursement – the only thing you have to do is submit the receipts. However, you have to keep in mind that you won’t be reimbursed for things that are not a necessity, such as expensive perfumes.

How to file a complaint?

The complaint should be filed in a written form via traditional post by sending copies of the documents (original documents should be kept by you).

Remember to enclose proofs of damage, such as: copy of the PIR form, damage assessment, receipts for things that were in the baggage or invoices. This is necessary because under the Montreal Convention the passenger is obliged to prove the damage suffered. This means that you’re required to prove that buying things as a replacement of those in the delayed or lost baggage was necessary. If you complain about the damage of your suitcase, you should not only submit to the carrier receipts for lost things that were in your baggage, but also the proof of purchase of the suitcase itself.

You also have to remember that when you file a complaint to a foreign carrier you should use a language they can understand. The best solution in such a case is writing the complaint in English. A complaint template can be downloaded from a European Consumer Centre’s website.

Amount of compensation

According to the provisions of the Montreal Convention signed by the states participating in the International Conference on Air Law, if your baggage is lost, damaged or delayed, you have the right to apply to the carrier for compensation of SDR* 1,000, i.e. around €1,200. In this case there are no flat-rate amounts, as it is the case with compensation for cancelled or delayed flights and for denied boarding, and the amount given is the upper limit of the carrier’s liability.

*SDR (Special Drawing Rights) – international unit of account, notional exchange unit of non-cash nature, existing solely in the form of accounting records in bank deposit accounts.

Amount of compensation depends on the value of your baggage – it’s good to keep the receipts proving its value. You also need a PIR, which – as it was mentioned above – you can get only at the airport, and the baggage tag indicating the weight of your lost baggage.

If you don’t have these documents, the airline will estimate the value of your baggage by themselves, based on its weight and not its actual value.

The compensation should be paid out in the monetary form.

Do not waive your right to claim!

If you want to receive compensation for baggage problems, it’s important not to agree on receiving a voucher for purchase of new things, which includes a waiver of claims declaration in case of voucher acceptance.

Limitation period

In compliance with Article 35 of the Montreal Convention of 1999, limitation period amounts to 2 years.

Responsibilities of the carrier

The carrier’s liability for damage to, loss or delay of baggage are laid down by the provisions of Chapter III of the Montreal Convention: Articles 17(1–2), 19 and 22(1–2).

It’s also important to read carefully the airline’s Rules of Procedure on carriage of baggage because, amongst other things, baggage such as sports equipment, musical instruments or carriage of animals is considered a separate baggage category, being packages of particular characteristics. It’s crucial to make sure how such baggage should be packed and checked in. If you carry e.g. a snowboard as checked baggage, you might not be entitled to compensation because its carriage might be provided at your own responsibility. For detailed information, go to the website of the airline from which you want to buy your ticket. In such cases it’s also good to purchase additional insurance.