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What rights do you have when it comes to lost luggage on airplanes?

Updated on February 5, 2013
Courtesy of nongpimmy www.freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of nongpimmy www.freedigitalphotos.net

Did you know you had rights when it comes to lost luggage on airplanes? It’s true, not many, and I know it doesn’t seem like it when your one and only suitcase goes walkabout at the beginning of your holiday, but you do.

Tens of millions of suitcases and bags go missing from airline check-ins each year. When compared with the billions of passengers traveling, that is quite a small percentage but that doesn’t help when it is your bag that disappears. There are different rules depending on whether your case is delayed or truly lost. It will always be classed as delayed up to 21 days after the flight. If it is still not found, then, finally, it is classed as lost.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that before you leave the airport, you must report the case as missing to airline staff. Rather than just telling someone, you should fill in the form they provide for this purpose, giving lots of detail about your suitcase. Taking a photo of it before travel and storing it on your phone is an excellent way of being able to describe it in detail.

For delayed luggage, it is up to the airline in question, but most will give you a certain amount of money to buy essentials. This is open to interpretation but should be things like spare clothes, medicines and toiletries. It can be a cash payment, an allowance of a fixed amount per day or payment after the effect when you have submitted receipts.

Courtesy of sattva www.freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of sattva www.freedigitalphotos.net

After 21 days, when your luggage is ultimately classed as lost, then begins the struggle to get compensation. Worldwide, airlines are subject to the Montreal Convention which states that airlines must recompense you for the loss of your luggage and its contents. This in effect allows you up to about $1750 although expect arguments particularly if you can’t show receipts for everything that has been packed, including the bag itself. In the US, they are expected to grant you up to £3300 by local laws, but again, receipts will help in settling this matter. If you cannot supply receipts, photographs may be admissible of ownership of the goods in question but it all depends on the airline and whether they will decide to go to court to sort the matter out. Be persistent, though, as airlines have been known to prevaricate to make you give it up as a bad loss.

Finally, if all else fails, check your travel insurance as this may even give you more compensation depending on their conditions. Make sure you factor in any small print and excess payments.

Hopefully, none of this will happen though and your trip will be a pleasant one with all of your possessions. And always remember; never check anything in the hold that is precious or expensive (like laptops or medicines etc.) as you never know what may happen.

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    • writerbeth profile image
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      writerbeth 4 years ago from England

      It is truly a painful experience - well done for getting compensation for the essentials though, Beth

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 4 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      I thought lost baggage turns up on Baggage Battles! I recently had a bag that failed to make the plane, so it was delayed by over 24 hours. It was hard enough to deal with the airline to get agreement to buy some essentials. I can only imagine the pain that occurs when the bag never turns us. Thanks writerbeth. Cheers Michael