When baggage is delayed, lost or damaged the airline may be liable for damages under the Montreal Convention 1999. There is a maximum limit on the airline’s liability of 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (Approximately £1,070, the value of an SDR is based on a basket of international currencies. The calculation is made daily by the International Monetary Fund and is available on www.imf.org) per passenger and there are time limits on making a claim.
However, the airline is not liable if it can prove that it took all necessary steps or that it was impossible to take such measures.
There are no set rules for how airlines must assess baggage claims. For delayed baggage, some airlines offer immediate one-off payments at a set amount to cover emergency purchases (such as toiletries or underwear). Some will pay a set amount per day up to a maximum number of days. Others will not make cash payments at the time, but prefer to reimburse expenditure on essential items on seeing receipts. The general principle is to cover essential, unavoidable expenditure resulting from the delay to delivery of the baggage.
If your baggage has still not been returned to you more than 21 days after your flight, the airline should treat it as lost and settle your claim on that basis.
The Montreal Convention requires airlines to treat a bag as lost after twenty-one days. In assessing your claim, an airline may well ask for a list of the items that were in the missing bag, and possibly for original receipts. In doing this, they are behaving like insurance companies. And, like insurers, their offer of compensation will be unlikely to match a claim in full. In particular, they will probably reduce the payment because of depreciation. You may find you can get a better settlement from your travel (or home contents) insurance even after allowing for any excess on the policy. If you claim on an insurance policy, it is likely that your insurer will re-claim the money from your airline or its insurer.
In assessing claims for damaged baggage, most airlines make a payment based on the value of the damaged bag or on any of its contents that were also damaged. They may ask for receipts, and they will probably apply a scale of depreciation to any payment. If it is just the bag or suitcase that is damaged some airlines may offer a new one from their store cupboard.
Making A Claim
You should report any mishandled baggage problems to the service desk in the baggage collection hall before you leave the airport. It is not a legal requirement to do so, but it may be difficult to make a claim if you do not.
Property Irregularity Report
When you report a baggage problem at the airport, the airline or its agent (there may not be separate service desks for every airline) they should make out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) and give you a copy. Your airline will want to see the PIR when making a claim. But it is not a legal requirement to have a PIR and an airline should not simply dismiss your claim without one.
The PIR does not itself constitute a formal claim. You will need to write to the airline, within certain time limits, enclosing a copy of the PIR.
The Montreal Convention states that claims should be made to an airline in writing within specified time limits. The time limits are:
- Damaged baggage – seven days from the receipt of the bags
- Delayed baggage – twenty-one days from delivery
- Lost baggage – no time limit specified in the Convention (it is advised to make the complaint as soon as possible after the bag has been missing for twenty-one days or after the airline has declared the bag lost if sooner).