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Lost Luggage: Airline Passenger Rights

Your suitcase was lost? No need to panic. Airline passengers are entitled to a replacement - but every airline has different rules.

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Only about one in a hundred suitcases is lost when flying. But if that suitcase is yours, your vacation can be spoiled before it has even started. However, there's no need to panic right away. After all, around 95 percent of all missing luggage turns up again. "Travelers are not left to their own devices in the event of a loss," explains Carola Scheffler from the German Air Transport Association. "They receive support and have certain claims for compensation."

Report lost luggage directly at the airport

To ensure that this goes smoothly, it is important to report the loss at the airport if possible. "The right people to contact are the staff at the lost-and-found desk," explains Katharina Bauer from the automobile club ADAC.

Present boarding pass with baggage registration number

The most important piece of evidence: the sticker on the boarding pass with the baggage registration number.

Draw up loss report for suitcase

If an initial search at the counter is unsuccessful, a loss report is drawn up. The report contains personal and flight data, as well as information about the piece of luggage. As a rule, passengers automatically receive a copy of the report with a reference number. This is important so that they have documentation for the further search process.
Caution: The burden of proof is reversed once you leave the airport - the passenger must then be able to prove that he or she actually checked in his or her baggage.

Report lost luggage to the airline

"If someone cannot make a claim directly at the airport, they must report the loss of their luggage to the airline in writing within 21 days. Otherwise, they lose their right to claim compensation," explains Hannelore Brecht-Kaul from the Baden-Württemberg Consumer Association.

Where should the suitcase be delivered to?

After formally reporting the loss, travelers should inform themselves on the airline's regulations on lost luggage. First of all, it is important to know whether suitcases and bag will be delivered to the vacation destination or the home address if they turn up again: "Normally, this is the case and this service is free of charge. Passengers just have to leave the address and a means of contacting them," says Brecht-Kaul. If the airline refuses to deliver the piece of luggage, passengers can have the travel costs to the airport reimbursed.

Use right to replacement equipment

Next, it is advisable to clarify what replacements are offered by the airline for the time while the luggage is missing. "There is no uniform regulation," explains Scheffler. Some provide a set of underwear and toiletries in the event of lost luggage, while others do not. In addition, airline companies vary in the generosity of their financial bridging assistance: "Anyone who lands at their vacation destination without luggage is generally entitled to buy a replacement outfit at the airline's expense. However, what this includes and how much it may cost varies," explains Scheffler.

What does replacement equipment include?

For example, Airline A may reimburse its customers for toiletries up to 50 euros in full and only pay half for clothing, while Airline B covers both and pays a rate of 50 euros for each of the first five waiting days. "Travelers should only buy what they actually need in their specific situation," Bauer emphasizes. Airlines only pay if the need for a purchase seems plausible. Depending on the destination and type of vacation, different standards apply: "If someone is going on a luxury trip where an elegant wardrobe is mandatory, a cocktail dress might well be reimbursed - but not for a beach vacation," says Bauer.

Keep receipts of replacement purchases

The means of payment also vary from airline to airline. In some cases, an advance payment is made - 20 to 200 euros, depending on the booking class. Usually, however, the passenger has to advance the money. "It is very important to keep the receipts for your purchases. Without them, the expenses cannot be proven and it will be difficult to obtain reimbursement," emphasizes Brecht-Kaul.

Respect deadlines

Receipts should be presented to the airline no later than three weeks after travelers have recovered their luggage.

Claim damages from the airline

If the suitcase remains missing despite an intensive search, the traveler must fill out a questionnaire in which they describes the contents and value of their luggage in detail. The questionnaire must be submitted to the airline with a request for compensation. The claims will be examined by the airline based on what was in the suitcase. "The maximum amount a passenger can receive is around 1,200 euros," explains Scheffler. So if you're traveling with an expensive gold watch in your suitcase, you'd better take out extra insurance beforehand.

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Source: dpa

Last edited: 4 February 2022