Lost, delayed or damaged baggage: what compensation for the passenger?

With summer approaching, it’s vacation season, travel and its share of inconveniences such as problems with lost or damaged luggage.

Having had to deal with this type of situation lately for us and to advise a faithful reader, here is a quick overview of what you are entitled to, which will be supplemented in some time by some real-life stories to explain how things are (dys) are working.

What to do if your baggage is missing on arrival?

This is what every traveler dreads: waiting desperately in front of the baggage carousel for a suitcase that will never arrive.

The first thing to do in this case is to immediately go to the airport baggage service to report the incident by filling out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) . You can also do this online, but often the passenger finds it more reassuring to speak to a human, even if in the end it changes absolutely nothing.

You will be asked for a certain number of details favoring the identification of the luggage in question and you will be given a receipt which in theory will include a file number allowing you to follow the progress of the research on a tool called Worldtracer .

Then you just have to wait. 95% of the luggage is found within 48 hours and it may even be on the next flight, on its way to join you.

Besides, it happens that the luggage is not really lost. Your correspondence may have been too short for your suitcase to follow you, but it remained under the company’s control at all times.

However, if your suitcase is not located within 72 hours (nothing looks more like a suitcase than another suitcase) you will be asked to provide a document identifying its contents . Yes there are ways for companies and baggage services to open a suitcase to try to identify it.

Now we are going to distinguish two cases depending on whether your suitcase is just delayed or truly lost.

Who are your interlocutors and who is responsible?

First of all, you have to know what you are dealing with.

The airline is only responsible for transporting your luggage and ultimately it will be up to them to compensate you if necessary.

But you have to be aware that if she is responsible, it is generally not her who lost your suitcase. Baggage management at airports is entrusted to a service provider, a “handler” whose role is to ensure that your baggage is loaded on the correct plane, then arrives at the baggage carousel and, in the event of a connection, that he doesn’t get lost on the way.

When baggage is misplaced, it is generally the fault of the handler at the airport concerned, even if in the end it is the company that is responsible.

Besides , your point of contact will generally be the handler and not the company, except when it comes to talking about compensation. Which, we’ll tell you another time, can be frustrating when things go wrong and handler and company pass the buck when we can’t get hold of your luggage.

What are you entitled to if your baggage is delayed?

When your suitcase is found, it is immediately redirected to your destination and will be delivered to your place of residence. But beware, it happens that some “handlers” do not do this or that the company does not provide for it in its general conditions of sale. It’s rare but it does happen.

The company will reimburse you for the costs of basic necessities on proof and with a ceiling that it determines. Don’t expect miracles, but it will allow you to restock your toilet bag and buy clothes appropriate to the climate.

If you paid for your luggage with your bank card, this can also compensate you and, in our experience, often more generously than the company.

For example, an Amex Gold Air France card will compensate you up to €250 if your luggage does not arrive within 6 hours, a platinum €400 from 4 hours.

You can of course combine the compensation of the company and that of the bank card.

Be careful, this only works when you leave home, assuming that if you are on your way back you have what you need at home. Even more restrictive, this sometimes only applies when you are abroad. Baggage lost on a Paris-Marrakech yes, on a Paris-Nantes no. It all depends on the companies and the cards.

But it sometimes happens that your luggage is permanently lost. It’s rare but it does happen.

What are you entitled to if your baggage is lost?

If your luggage is not found within 21 days of your declaration, it will be considered lost and the company will have to compensate you.

Depending on the airline, this can reach 8 to 10% of lost luggage that will never be found on long-distance flights, with the “good students” being at 3%.

Passenger compensation is governed by the Montreal Convention of 1999 which replaces the Warsaw Convention of 1929 with more advantageous conditions. A priori, it is the most recent of the two that applies except in rare exceptions of countries which have not ratified it or which have made reservations. In the case of the Warsaw Convention, baggage is considered lost after 14 days.

Please note: these agreements only concern international flights, i.e.

• A flight from country A to country B.

• A flight whose origin and destination are in country A but with a stopover in country B.

In the event of loss of baggage on a domestic flight, local law and the company’s terms and conditions of sale govern.

To be compensated, you will have to provide the company with a list of lost effects and ideally their invoice!

Then do not expect to be reimbursed at the price of new: the companies will apply a discount.

Finally, be aware that the conventions limit the maximum amount of compensation: 1627 euros for the Montreal convention, 26 euros per kilo for the Warsaw convention.

If we do not have the invoices for the lost goods, which is most often the case, the company will offer you a fixed compensation per kilo.

To be compensated, you will have to provide the company with a file ideally including:

• Baggage receipt

• The PIR

• The detailed list of lost items, their price and invoices

Here too you can use your bank card which can include loss of luggage insurance.

What if your luggage is damaged?

The Montreal and Warsaw conventions still apply. You must make a complaint within 3 days (Warsaw) or 7 days (Montreal), accompanied by photos of the luggage. Ideally, do a PIR at the airport as soon as you discover the condition of your baggage.

Compensation is capped at 1612 euros (Montreal), 27 euros per kilo (Warsaw).

Image: lost luggage from fizkes via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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