Lost luggage: what are your rights?

Find out what your rights are if your luggage is lost or damaged

Sarah Pennells – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Sarah Pennells | Independent Money Mentor

Founder of SavvyWoman and award-winning journalist


It’s a holiday nightmare: you arrive at your destination but your luggage doesn’t. It doesn’t happen very often (fewer than six bags for every 1,000  passengers go missing), but that’s no consolation if it’s your bags that are lost. Airlines have to pay you compensation if it’s their responsibility. Find out what you’ll get and how to claim. 

Damaged luggage

If your luggage and/or its contents have been damaged, the airline may pay for a new suitcase and to replace the damaged items or they may simply pay for it to be repaired. It will depend on the damage.

Lost or delayed luggage

Luggage is only officially considered lost if it doesn’t turn up after 21 days. In the short term, you can claim against the airline for the cost of buying essentials if your luggage is delayed. The amounts you can claim vary from airline to airline and – for most airlines – are quite low. It’s normally enough for toiletries, underwear and getting your clothes cleaned, not a new wardrobe.

Lost luggage compensation

If your luggage is deemed lost, there are rules that say how much an airline should compensate you. The most you’ll get is currently around £1,000 but this level does fluctuate against other currencies. It’s an oddity of airline travel that the limit for lost luggage compensation is set in a non-existent currency called SDR or ‘special drawing rights’…no, I don’t get it either! 

If you’re travelling with something that’s worth more than £1,000, you should fill in a form called a ‘special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage’ (it’s sometimes called a ‘special declaration of value’) before you fly. The airline may charge you for this form. 

Making a claim

You have to claim for lost luggage against the airline itself. If you’ve had connecting flights and you don’t know where your luggage was lost, it’s normally best to claim from the last airline you travelled with.

Report your luggage damaged or delayed at the airport as soon as you can. There should be signs for the lost luggage desk near baggage claims.

Ask for a PIR (property irregularity report) form. You should be given a copy of this once it’s been completed. Make sure you don’t lose it as it has a file reference number for your claim.

When you claim, the airline will probably ask for receipts or other evidence of what you’ve lost.

Can you claim on travel insurance?

If you have travel insurance, it may or may not cover the cost of lost or delayed luggage. Some policies have a clause saying they won’t pay out for damage or loss once you’ve handed your case over to the airline.

Tougher rules

There is some good news – from June 2018 airlines will have to track luggage at four points during each journey.  It should mean fewer bags taking a mystery tour of their own!

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