Lost luggage on the increase

17 Mar 2009 by BusinessTraveller

Industry watchdog The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) has published a report highlighting an increase in luggage lost by airlines, and complaints about carriers’ approach to compensation claims.

Some 42 million bags were mishandled by airlines worldwide in 2007 and of these, approximately 1.2 million bags were irretrievably lost – equivalent to one bag for every 2,000 or so passengers. This is a dramatic increase on the 30 million bags mishandled in 2005. In addition to this, there has been a growing number of disputes over insurance claims where a bag is lost, delayed or damaged. AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said:

“…on too many occasions passengers are not fairly compensated for lost luggage because they do not have receipts for the items that were in their bag or because the airline is taking into account depreciation of the value of the items in the bag. And with delayed baggage, passengers are often left out of pocket because airlines will not reimburse them fully for expenses they incurred buying essential items whilst they are without their bag.  

“Of course, of most benefit to passengers would be for airlines to mishandle fewer bags in the first place.”

The Association of European Airlines states that on average, 85 per cent of delayed bags are reunited with their owners within 48 hours. This can leave business trips severely disrupted as they tend to be short stays.

Complaints to the AUC have included mention of Ryanair limiting passengers to £15 compensation for a bag being delayed, regardless of the length of delay. This is well below the internationally recognised maximum limit of around £1,000, as set by the Montreal Convention. Other examples include Jet2, which refuses to reimburse passengers for claims under £30.

The report does recognise a number of airlines having “gone to great lengths to address their baggage handling performance,” but concludes that “airlines are still too quick to load risk onto the passenger”.

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Report by Holly Willis

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