You have just arrived home from an international holiday feeling relaxed, a week in the Maldives or trekking in the Andes. We all understand how frustrating it can be when bags don’t arrive, are delayed or damaged, especially if you don’t have travel insurance. But who is the responsible party – you or the airline? Below, we look at your legal rights during air travel, particularly when your luggage is MIA. 

Terms and Conditions

When you book a ticket, an airline typically outlines the terms and conditions of baggage requirements, telling you the rules and regulations that apply to your trip. For international flights, however, there is a litany of international treaties that you should know of if your bag disappears. 

Applicable International Treaties

The Montreal Convention 1999 covers most countries you would travel to and from and currently, 108 nations are a party to this treaty. It amended provisions to the existing Warsaw Convention of 1929. Both have similar baggage rules but different time limits. These conventions apply when the country of departure and arrival is signatory to one of these conventions.

Who is Responsible for Luggage?

Carry on baggage is the passenger’s responsibility unless the airline carrier or its agents intervene, and damage is the fault of the airline or staff.

Airline carriers are responsible for loss, delay or damage of checked in baggage. This is the case unless the damage is a result of a defect of the baggage itself. Further, the airline isn’t liable if it took reasonable measures to avoid delay. 

What Compensation Are You Owed?

Each applicable International Convention provides that compensation is paid for in special drawing rights (SDRs). The International Monetary Fund determines the SDR by creating an artificial value based on the euro, pound, US dollar and Japanese Yen and reviews this every five years. 

Interestingly, the Montreal Convention provides for greater compensation than the Warsaw Convention – 1131 SFRs (approx. A$1922.70) to 17 SDRs (approx. A$28.90) respectively.

It is also important to note that the carrier is not liable should they take all reasonable measures to avoid a delay. So when you are running to make a connection, it is probable that your bag is trying to make it with equal haste as well.

How to Make a Claim?

Under Article 31 of the Montreal Convention and Article 26 of the Warsaw Convention, you must make a claim within: 

  • 21 days of receiving delayed baggage;
  • 7 days for damaged baggage; and 
  • There is no time limit for lost baggage.  

The Montreal Convention defines lost as a period of 21 days where your luggage isn’t returned, or the airline carrier admits fault. 

Takeaway Message

If your baggage and its contents are worth more than the specified compensation, check whether your insurance covers lost, damaged or delayed baggage. Now that you know your rights, ensure that you use them next time you baggage goes missing. 

Questions? Let us know on 1300 544 755. 

Sophie Glover

Next Steps

If you would like further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please get in touch using the form on this page.