Disappearance of baggage: Your rights if your baggage is lost during air travel

If you wait in vain at baggage claim, you won’t have to walk around with the same clothes for the next few days. Consumer advocates explain what vacationers should know about luggage problems

Standing at the airport after a flight without a suitcase is annoying. Luggage often arrives late to the owner. However, in rare cases, they remained gone. And sometimes, just as inconvenient, they arrive with the owner at the destination airport, but roll off the assembly line damaged.

This is proven by current data from IT service provider Sita, which evaluates passenger data and baggage statistics from airlines. Accordingly, 4.35 pieces of baggage were lost or damaged per 1,000 passengers in 2021. 71 percent of them arrived late, 23 percent were damaged, and 6 percent were completely lost.

The SITA report also shows that the risk of baggage problems is much higher on international flights than on domestic flights.

Fill out the form and respect the deadlines

Vacationers affected by lost or damaged baggage must take action at the airport and fill out a so-called PIR report, Property Irregularity Report, at the airline’s office. The European Consumer Center (EVZ) Germany indicates this.

In addition, delayed baggage must be reported to the airline in writing within 21 days. Consumer advocates warn that if the PIR document is lost or if the deadline is missed, the airline may not have to repay anything.

The deadline is shorter if the bag is up to baggage claim level but is broken. Because if baggage is damaged, the reporting period is seven days. In addition, a PIR report must also be filled out here.

Important for package travelers: the same deadlines apply to them, but they must report the loss or damage to the organizer. And even the tourists who are there can’t avoid going to the airline’s office. You will also need a PIR document.

This is evidence that the airline is responsible for the damage or loss – that is, the damage actually occurred in connection with the booked flight, EVZ explains when asked.

Replace lost laundry

No suitcase at a vacation destination usually means no change of clothes. According to consumer advocates, travelers are allowed to buy surrogates, if they have to dispense with their luggage for a few hours. However, purchases should be limited to what is really necessary. Toothbrushes, underwear, swim trunks, T-shirts and pajamas are not a problem.

Of course, travelers must keep receipts of alternative purchases. You should also have the baggage tag from check-in ready as evidence in such cases.

Good to know: According to the Consumer Center, airlines typically only reimburse half of the costs of clothing purchased as a replacement. After all, it can still be carried after that. If the bag is lost on the return trip or you get home late, emergency purchases are usually not refunded.

Exceptions to this rule can be return trips from vacations lasting several months or, for example, if you lost a special item of clothing that you urgently need – a tuxedo, for example.

According to consumer advocates, the upper limit of liability for baggage problems is currently just under €1,700 per passenger. In addition to necessary replacement purchases, airlines have to pay for items that are lost or damaged. However, valuables such as jewelry, cash or laptops are exempt from liability. They belong to handbags, as well as medicines.

Pictures of the contents of the box can help

It’s a good idea to get photos of the contents of your bag before you travel to prove that you’ve lost your items. In the case of particularly expensive items such as designer clothes, it may also be helpful to present their receipts.

Note: According to consumer advocates, airlines only reimburse the original price for items that can prove to be new. Otherwise, the present value, which is calculated individually, is applied. Airlines often only pay fixed daily fares that are meant to cover all costs.

It is therefore advisable to have tangible proof of the contents of the bag in the form of photos and purchase receipts, just in case. Because: “Fortunately, it doesn’t often happen that people continue to insist on daily rates even when concrete evidence is presented,” EVZ writes when asked.

Baggage insurance for expensive valuables?

If the value of the baggage exceeds the airline’s liability limit or if you have valuables that require special protection with you when traveling, baggage insurance may be useful.

Since, according to the Consumer Center, they often pay only under very narrow circumstances, it makes sense to read the Terms and Conditions (GTC) carefully before withdrawing the policy.

Reduce the price of travel for an all-inclusive tour

Interesting for package travelers: you can reduce the price of travel for the period when you have to do without your luggage.

According to Consumer Centers, vacationers are “usually entitled to between 5 and 50 percent of the daily airfare without baggage.” If the bag remains missing during the entire holiday, up to half of the total airfare must be reimbursed.

If you want to reduce the price of travel, you must immediately inform the organizer of the unavailable baggage, consumer advice centers recommend – either directly by phone or via the on-site tour guide.


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