Arriving at your destination airport to find your luggage has not is far from the best start to any holiday.
But the good news is that the chances of your suitcase getting lost have fallen dramatically in recent years.
Only about six in every 1,000 bags now go missing in transit each year, according to 2017 figures from air transport specialist SITA.
But what should you do if you are left standing by the empty baggage carousel? Or if your luggage turns up but has been damaged during the flight?
This step-by-step guide outlines your rights, and explains how to claim for compensation.
What should I do if my luggage is lost?
It’s important to report lost luggage at the airport before leaving the baggage claim hall.
To do this, you should go to the airline help desk, or – if there isn’t one – to the airport Customer Services desk.
In most cases, airlines will return your bag to you within a couple of days.
If this is not the case, it will be classed as “delayed” for 21 days, at which point it will become “lost”.
You can only make a claim for lost luggage with an airline or an insurer once a bag is declared as “lost”.
Lost luggage: your five-step action plan
1. Report the loss at the airline help desk in the baggage claim area
2. Fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) and find out if the airline knows when your bag will arrive
3. Check the airline’s compensation policy for essential purchases such as toiletries
4. Keep all the receipts for any such purchases
5. Ask how long you have to make a claim
What should I do if my luggage is damaged?
Even if your bag turns up on time, it may have been damaged en route.
So when you pick up your luggage, don’t forget to check it carefully.
If there is any damage, you should report it before leaving the baggage claim area.
If you don’t do this, it could result in your claim being rejected.
Damaged luggage: your five-step action plan
- Report the damage at the airline help desk in the baggage claim area
- Keep the resulting paperwork safe for when you make a claim
- Take photographs of the damage
- Collect up to three quotes showing the expected cost of repairs/replacements
- If you are planning to claim with the airline, check how long you have. Many airlines impose a seven-day deadline on damage claims
Should I make a claim with the airline or contact my travel insurer?
You have the right to claim compensation from an airline if your luggage is delayed, lost or damaged.
However, making a claim with your travel insurer is often easier than pursuing one with an airline.
You may also be able to claim for a larger amount with your insurer, as most airlines limit compensation to about £1,000 – compared to between £1,500 and £2,000 on a typical travel policy.
But be aware that many insurers impose single-item limits of say £200 or £300. This means that it will only pay out up to this amount for one particular item.
If you are travelling with valuable items, you should therefore contact your insurer and arrange separate cover for them.
When you make a travel insurance claim, you will also have to pay the policy excess.
This is generally about £50 to £80 – but can be much higher.
When is it better to claim with an airline?
Times it may make more sense to claim with an airline include:
- When your luggage is only missing for a couple of days – most airlines will cover the cost of essential purchases
- When you have a high excess on your travel insurance policy – especially if the excess is more than the claim amount
How should I make a claim to an airline?
- Don’t put it off: most airlines also impose deadlines on luggage claims
- Collect the relevant paperwork: this includes your boarding pass, luggage labels, your PIR form, receipts for items bought as a result – and any receipts you have for items in the case
- Fill in the airline’s claim form: or write a letter including your flight details, what happened, and the amount of compensation you are seeking
- Show the company you know your rights: you can do this by “claiming compensation under the Montreal Convention”. (The Montreal Convention sets rules of compensation)
- Keep copies of your claim form or letter: as well as your original documents in case you are unhappy with the response – in which case you can complain to the Civil Aviation Authority
How should I make a claim with my travel insurer?
- Contact your insurer and fill in the relevant claim form as soon as possible
- Send in all the paperwork relating to the incident: boarding pass, luggage labels, your PIR form, plus any receipts
- Provide photographic proof of any damage caused
- Watch out for exclusions. Cash, for example, is unlikely to be covered if you put it in your hold baggage
- Keep copies of your claim form and your original documents in case you are not satisfied with the response – you can complain to the insurer and take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you are still unhappy
To make sure you’re not left out of pocket if your luggage is lost or damaged, it’s always best to take out a travel insurance policy before you set off on your trip. You can compare a wide range of travel insurance policies with MoneySuperMarket.