Advice Column: Compensation for delayed luggage
My luggage was delayed when I flew abroad on holiday recently and I had to buy new clothes and toiletries when I arrived. How can I claim compensation for this?
You have the legal right to claim compensation from the airline if your checked-in luggage is delayed, lost or damaged.
You only have the right to claim for a problem with cabin baggage if it’s the airline’s fault.
You’re more likely to get compensation if you act quickly. You should:
- report the problem to the airline straight away
- check deadlines – you may have to claim within 7 days of your flight
If you have travel insurance or home contents insurance that covers luggage, you’re likely to be better off making an insurance claim instead. You’ll probably get more money and find it easier to claim this way.
What you could get from the airline
What you can get from the airline is usually limited to money for:
- the bare essentials you need if your luggage is delayed, eg toiletries and underwear
- part of the cost of replacing or repairing lost luggage and contents
If you have to collect delayed luggage yourself, you may be able to get the airline to pay for transport costs.
Airlines often want receipts for everything included in your claim, and they won’t usually pay:
- ‘new for old’ replacement for anything lost or damaged
- for anything valuable, fragile or perishable in checked-in luggage
- more than around £1,000 total compensation – and it’s usually a lot less
- for stress, inconvenience or other things that happen because of a problem with your luggage, eg you miss a connection
- if your luggage was faulty
Report the problem
Report the problem to the airline straight away – you don’t legally have to do this, but if you do you’re more likely to get any compensation you claim from the airline.
You’ll still have to make a claim for compensation after you report the problem, unless the airline decides to pay you upfront, eg for expenses while your luggage is delayed.
You’ve already reported the problem if you filled in a ‘property irregularity report’ (PIR) at the airport – this is the form you get from customer services in the baggage claims hall.
If you didn’t report the problem at the airport, contact the airline or use their website to report the problem – and get the airline to confirm in writing that you reported it.
Keep a copy of your PIR or written confirmation to help with your claim.
Deadlines for claiming
Most airlines follow these deadlines, but it’s a good idea to check with the airline.
If your luggage is delayed or missing, the airline has 21 days to find it and get it to you. If you get your luggage back within 21 days, you can still claim compensation for delayed luggage. If you don’t, claim for lost luggage.
|What you’re claiming for||Deadline for claiming|
|Damaged luggage||7 days after getting your luggage|
|Missing or damaged contents||7 days after getting your luggage|
|Delayed or missing luggage||21 days after the flight|
|Lost luggage – it’s officially lost after 21 days||As soon as possible after it’s officially lost|
Documents you’ll need
Ask the airline what documents you’ll need – they’d usually expect you to have:
- your boarding card
- your luggage labels (these have a bar-code and number to identify your luggage)
- proof you reported the problem, eg your PIR form or email from the airline
- receipts for things you had to buy because of a delay
- proof of purchase for lost or damaged things, eg receipts or credit card statements
- photos of any damage to your luggage or contents
- cost estimates for any repairs you’re claiming for, eg from a luggage repair business
Make a claim
Ask the airline how they want you to send your claim. If they don’t have a claim form, you’ll probably have to write a letter to the airline’s customer service department.
In your letter, say you’re “claiming compensation under the Montreal Convention” – this will show the airline that you know your rights. Also make sure your letter includes:
- details of your flight – dates, flight number, departure and destination
- what happened to your luggage
- how much money you’re asking for
- a detailed description of everything that’s damaged or lost
- a list or everything you had to buy because of a delay
- copies of all the documents you need
Keep a copy of your claim and original documents – you’ll need these if you’re not happy with the airline’s response and you want to take your claim further.
If you flew with more than one airline
If you had connecting flights with different airlines, you can claim compensation from any of them – but most airlines expect you to claim with the last airline you boarded.
The airline can’t say it’s not their responsibility or refuse to handle your claim because other airlines were involved. If they do, ask the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for advice about what to do.
If you’re not happy with the airline’s response
If you’re not getting anywhere with the airline you can take your claim further.
First try complaining to the CAA – use the form on the CAA website to ask them to take up your complaint with the airline.
PACT (the CAA’s Passenger Advice and Complaints Team) will only consider your luggage complaint if the airline or airport involved is not a member of an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body.
As a last resort, you can take your case to the small claims court within 2 years of the flight – this can be expensive and time-consuming. You should only do this if you think your claim is worth the stress and time of going to court. Read our advice on preparing for the small claims court if you need more help.
- Find out how to make a claim on your insurance policy
- Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 if you need more help – a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone and online
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