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Lost luggage at airport

What you should do if you discover that your luggage is missing

08 January 2009 – A recent poll of insurance companies in UK suggested that around 200,000 bags are lost or misplaced each month at UK airports. Meanwhile globally, according to the International Air Transport Association 42 million pieces of luggage are mishandled. Recent events at Heathrow Terminal 5 only proved that lost luggage became a serious issue for air travellers.

Who is responsible for the loss of my luggage?

The airline who flew you to your destination and they are responsible for your baggage.

What should I do if I discover that my luggage is missing?

You must report your missing items to the airline before leaving the airport and present your luggage receipt as proof of what you checked in. You could also ask the airline for Property Irregularity Report (PIR).
It is not necessary but it could help you with any future compensation claim.

When you report missing luggage at the airline desk some companies may offer you pocket money to fund emergency purchases. The amount you get varies between the airlines and there are no set guidelines as to how much you should be paid.

Usually you will be told to continue on your holiday and you will receive a promise that your baggage will be delivered to you in due course. You should wait for 21 days for your luggage. After 21 days your baggage will be considered permanently lost.

What should I do if my luggage has not arrived after 21 days?

Write to your airline notifying them of the loss and ensure you keep a copy of the letter for yourself. Tell them the circumstances surrounding the lost luggage and also supply an inventory of everything that was in your case, providing proof of purchase where possible. Under the Montreal Convention you can claim up to £850 in compensation.

If you have travel insurance you should check the terms of the policy. It may be better to claim on your insurance as it is possible that the loss is better covered. Check all the small print before you contact your insurance provider as they may have imposed limits on the amount of money that can be claimed for certain items. Remember that you may also have to pay an excess on your policy which could be anything up to several hundred pounds.

What if there are items missing from my luggage?

It is very difficult to obtain any compensation from an airline due to the difficulty in proving that the items were there in the first place. It is a good idea not to carry very expensive items in your luggage or to buy travel insurance to cover such items. Most airlines also have a clause in their terms and conditions saying that they do not accept responsibility for perishable or valuable items (such as cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, documents or jewellery).

You should also remember that an airline is liable only for items that it has agreed to carry. If you packed items in your luggage that were listed as “items unacceptable as baggage” in the airline’s conditions of carriage, you will not be able to claim against the airline if they go missing.

What are the time limits for making a complaint?

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 but it is advisable to make a complaint as soon as possible after the bag has been missing for 21 days.

I think that my insurer underestimated the value of my claim. What can I do?

All insurers in the UK must adhere to the rules of Financial Services Authority (FSA). If you have a complaint against the Insurance company you should first contact the Financial Ombudsman Service and make an official complaint. More information about how they can help can be found at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk

What if I am not happy with the actions taken by the airline after I made my claim?

If you don't have insurance and are not satisfied with the airline's actions following your lost baggage compensation claim you should get in touch with the Air Transport User's Council who should be able to offer advice and chase up the complaint. Their contact details can be found at www.auc.org.uk

This article was written by solicitors from Simpson Millar LLP. For further legal advice call us on 0808 129 3319 

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