Know your rights when your luggage is delayed or lost

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Today (October 17, 2014): Travel Tip: know your rights when your luggage is delayed or lost.

Airlines are notoriously reluctant to do anything more than they can get away with when it comes to delayed or lost luggage. However, if your bag does go missing, you do have a right to a fixed amount of compensation. So, know your rights and read the following tips:

lost or delayed luggage

  • The key thing to bear in mind is that airlines are more likely to accept responsibility if you report the problem straightaway. This means filling out Property Irregularity Report (PIR), available from airline desks in the luggage hall. While this isn’t a legal requirement, and there maybe a reason why it’s not possible to do this – an unmanned desks occasionally at a small airport, for example, – you’re still entitled to claim. But without a PIR the process is likely to be more of an uphill battle.
  • As well as personal and flight details, you’ll need to give as accurate a description of your bag as possible, recording any distinguishing features. A good tip (for the highly organised) is to keep a photo of your luggage on your phone in case you ever need to make this sort of report.
  • Once you’ve submitted the PIR to airline staff, you should be able to monitor the progress of the tracing procedure, either by contacting baggage services at the airport, the airline’s central department or by logging into an online baggage-tracing page with a reference number. This reference will relate to the luggage receipt usually attached to your passport or boarding card at check-in or bag-drop, so keep it somewhere safe.
  • If your luggage arrives a day or two late, arrangements should be made by the airline to get it back to you as efficiently as possible.
  • A missing bag will officially be declared lost after 21 days.
  • If you’re abroad without your bag, airlines are obliged to cover costs of “essential items” and it’s this definition can be a sticking point when it comes to compensation. Depending on the attitude of the airline, it may argue that “essential items” are classified as toiletries, underwear or laundry costs rather than a brand new outfit. Keep receipts for anything you buy.
  • Make sure to file your claim for compensation within 7 days of receiving your luggage (or 21 days if your luggage was delayed).
  • Compensation for delayed luggage usually comes in the form of an upfront cash payment, a fixed daily budget or remittance once your claim and receipts have been submitted. Note that your claim must be sent to the airline’s customer relations department within 21 days of recovering a delayed bag. Depending on various factors such as how complicated your claim is, and the time of year, it may take between two and eight weeks to process.
  • Within the European Union: If your bag is lost after 21 days, you are entitled to compensation from the airline, up to about €1,220. However, it’s hardly ever this much in reality, and you’re likely to find the airline tries to pass the buck by suggesting you take it up with your travel insurer. Depending on your cover, you may get a higher level of compensation this way. Be sure to check the excess charge and the small print first as some policies provide minimal or no cover for luggage while in the care of an airline.
  • Within the European Union: If you are travelling with expensive items, you might be able – for a fee – to obtain a compensation limit higher than €1,223 by making a special advance declaration to the airline – at the latest when you check in.
  • A potential complication is when your bag has been transferred to another one or two airlines within a single journey. In this case it makes sense to claim from the last one flown, as it’s this airline which usually handles the claim.
  • If you wish to pursue other legal action, you must do so within 2 years of the date your luggage arrives.

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