Ever traveled by air and arrived without your bags?

ByMichael Otieno

Ever traveled by air and arrived without your bags?

Baggage on beltYour service contract with any airline you choose to travel with is pretty simple; to deliver you and your baggage to the destination of your choice safely, preferably together. There have been or there will be those anxious moments when your baggage has not or will not arrive with you at that destination. It gets more complicated when you are on international travel.

You have either felt or will feel even more aggravated when that airline of choice remains aloof and unresponsive amid your frustration and mad rants about how you will never fly with them again since your baggage is lost/delayed.

 Here is a glimpse into what you should know about your service contract with an airline when you purchase a ticket. 

Your ticket is a binding contract of service for both parties involved. – Every airline will be quick to tell you what is expected from you as far as your baggage is concerned; don’t pack certain items, (liquids, valuables, items categorized as dangerous goods etc), your check in baggage must x kgs and hang luggage must not exceed y kgs…. the list is never ending and it varies from carrier to carrier. Here is what you should know; all airlines especially IATA member carriers are bound by certain international conventions which define “conditions of carriage”. Please visit the website of the airline you travel with and familiarize yourself with their conditions especially clauses around baggage.

I have not received my baggage on arrival, what do I do? –  While the service contract between you and your airline is clear, many carriers seldom meet their end of the bargain due to circumstances within and in some cases outside their control.

Hence in the fine print attached to your copy of the ticket (hereby referred to as contract), nearly all airlines have this clause “carrier undertakes to use its best effort to carry passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch” – their way of absolving themselves from full liability. As a passenger ensures you report your baggage delay/loss immediately to the carrier or its appointed agent by completing the lost baggage form from the airline. Make sure you hold a valid reference number for your complaint. Airlines do not honor complaints of baggage loss coming in later than 21 days of travel.

Where all and vital baggage is delayed/lost the carrier is bound to offer a first relief to the affected passenger limited to USD 80 for economy class and USD 100 for club class travel (Business, First or Premier Class). This relief MUST be offered immediately and is supposed to cater for immediate needs like toiletries and other necessities misplaced within the missing baggage.

My baggage was never found and the airline has gone silent on me, what should I do?, The Warsaw Convention which governs international journeys stipulates that the airlines liability is limited for loss delayed or damage to baggage unless a higher value is declared in advance of the travel and additional charges paid.

So don’t waste your time or the airlines’ saying you had six DVD players and twenty iphones plus a Canon camera in the baggage if you did not declare this at check-in so that your baggage is specially handled. Incase value of commodities in checked in baggage is declared and the baggage is lost or damaged the airline is bound to compensate based on actual receipts, otherwise the following will usually apply; USD 20 per kilo for checked baggage and USD 400 per passenger for unchecked baggage. For travel within the US, federal rules apply.

Where all these conditions are met and the airline does not offer any amicable/acceptable settlement, as a passenger you reserve the right to engage a legal counsel and sue not only for compensation as stipulated in the conditions of carriage but also for other things like loss of time, mental anguish…. Am sure lawyers have a lot of these up their sleeves. Just because the airline you used is not registered in your country does not stop you from seeking legal redress, remember your ticket (contract of service) is internationally binding.

Safe travels and I do hope you arrive at your destination with your bags.

This post was earlier published in The East African Magazine May 21,2016  What you need to know in case of lost luggage

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About the Author

Michael Otieno author

Michael Otieno is Managing Partner at SADIM Airline Management Solutions, an airline management consultancy practice with a focus on African airlines and airports.