Delayed, lost and damaged luggage – passenger rights

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Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2020-04-22. Autor: Milena

Delayed, lost and damaged luggage can be a source of stress. So find out what to do if the problem affects you as well.

When I flew to Poland last year, my suitcase arrived with broken wheels. I don’t recommend that. Fortunately, I made a complaint and got a new one in return. Later, when I was going back to Terceira, my luggage did not arrive on time for my short vacation in Lisbon. It was delivered to me to Terceira at a later date, to the place I indicated. And I got a refund of costs that I incurred because of the missing luggage. You know – panties, shower slippers, stuff. Something standard? I hope not.

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Delayed or damaged luggage is a problem that I do not wish you. But it’s possible that you’ll come across it. What can you do in this situation?

The Montreal Convention, i.e. what the legal bases look like

Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, i.e. the Montreal Convention, regulates, among others, luggage rules and airline liability for your luggage. You can find its full version HERE.

General tips

We’ll get to the details in a moment, but first a few tips to help you with any luggage problems:

  • Store a card with your contact details in your luggage so that you can be contacted if you have difficulty identifying your luggage.
  • Measure your luggage, look at its colours, so that you can describe it well later.
  • Before departure, take pictures of your luggage that you can later submit when making a complaint.
  • Make a list of the items you have in your luggage, along with their value, so that you have a basis for valuation of losses, if necessary.
  • If you carry valuable items in your luggage, take out additional insurance for your luggage.

Damaged luggage

At the beginning let’s discuss damaged luggage. A broken handle? Damaged wheels? Perforated suitcase? You can apply for repair or replacement of the suitcase with a new one. If the contents of the case have also been damaged, you can also apply for compensation for them.

What to do?

Be sure to make a complaint while you’re still at the airport! Each airport has a dedicated stand, ask the airport staff where it is. You will need to provide the following information:

  • Your first and last name,
  • Your birthdate,
  • your ID number,
  • your address and contact details,
  • booking and / or ticket number,
  • passenger number (if you have one),
  • scan / copy of ticket, boarding pass and luggage tag,
  • description of the situation,
  • information about losses incurred (and suitcase and items inside that have been damaged) and the amount of such losses.

After submitting a complaint you will receive a so-called PIR (Property Irregularity Report). Keep both PIR and all flight related documents, you’ll need them. Also take pictures of damage.

(Theoretically, you have 7 days from the date of receipt of the luggage to file such a complaint, but by submitting a complaint at the airport you ensure that the complaint will be accepted. Later, you would have to prove that the damage actually occurred at the airport, and not e.g. on the way home from the airport).

At the airport, along with the confirmation of filing a complaint, you will also get contact to the agency that handles this type of complaint. Usually these are not airlines themselves, but companies they subcontract. Be prepared that you will have to submit all the above-mentioned information and documents again. Call this agency to speed up the processing of your case. The agency will probably ask you to send photos of damaged luggage. Send those already taken at the airport.

If only the suitcase has been damaged, you will be offered to repair or replace it. More expensive ones are usually repaired, cheaper ones – replaced. The company will decide which of these options it proposes to you. It can also send you a list of suitcases to choose from. A courier will pick up your suitcase (if repair is needed; they won’t bother if exchanged) and bring you a new one. And voila!

If the contents of the luggage have also been damaged, you can apply for a refund of the costs incurred to buy back the damaged elements. Keep the bills in this situation.

Remember that airlines are liable up to a maximum of 1000 SDR (special drawing right, this is the currency, in March 2020 it is approx. EUR 1,220). Unless you had purchased additional luggage insurance, which I mentioned earlier.

Delayed luggage

If your luggage is delayed, you should also report it immediately, still at the airport. Depending on the airport, you will report it directly to the carrier or at a specially indicated stand. Get ready to present almost the same information as for damaged luggage. Those are:

  • your first and last name,
  • your birthdate,
  • your ID number,
  • your address and contact details,
  • booking and / or ticket number,
  • passenger number (if you have one),
  • scan / copy of ticket, boarding pass and luggage tag,
  • description of the situation,
  • possible information about the value of luggage,
  • information on where the carrier should deliver your luggage (carriers will sometimes want you to pick up your luggage from the airport, but in fact they are obliged to bring it to you home).

After submitting a complaint you will receive a so-called PIR (Property Irregularity Report). Keep both the PIR and all flight related documents, you may still need them.

(Theoretically, you have 21 days from the date of receipt of the luggage to file such a complaint, but by submitting a complaint at the airport you can be assured that the complaint will be accepted. Later you had to prove that you did not actually receive the luggage despite having been properly diligent).

If, due to the delayed arrival of your luggage, you incur costs, because, like me in Lisbon, you have to buy panties, you can expect a refund from the carrier. Of course, the costs must be rational and justified. Keep all bills and attach them to your complaint. Also in this situation, airlines are liable up to a maximum of 1000 SDR unless you have additional luggage insurance. For example, if you need important equipment that you need for work, it is worth buying such an insurance.

Lost luggage

Luggage that does not reach you within 21 days after landing is considered lost. In this situation, refer to your complaint about delayed luggage and claim compensation for lost luggage. If you don’t have additional insurance, the airline will also pay you a maximum of 1000 SDR.

Date of initiation of court proceedings

If for some reason the above measures do not work, you have 2 years from the date of arrival of your aircraft or from the date it was supposed to arrive, to initiate legal proceedings.

May your luggage always arrive healthy and on time

Delayed or damaged luggage, and even more so lost – these are not situations that fill us with joy. So remember to prepare your luggage well before the flight. That’s all you can do. And then – everything in the hands of employees of airports and airlines. Until our bags reach us safe and sound and on time. What I wish you and myself.


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