What are your rights if an airline loses or damages your luggage?

lost baggage rights

Everything you need to know about compensation rights if a bag doesn’t arrive – or turns up damaged – at a final destination.  

Almost everyone has been there. The baggage carousel at the airport has stopped and no more bags are coming out so where’s yours? Or what if the awaited bag finally comes and it is battered beyond recognition, with articles of clothing seeping out of the sides, having been hastily shoved back in through a broken zip by a well-meaning baggage handler.  

Lost, misplaced or damaged luggage after a flight is an inconvenience at best and a holiday-wrecker at worst, but passengers do have rights. Here are the protocols for each scenario according to the French rules.


A delayed bag is defined as one not present when a passenger disembarks, but is delivered later on another flight. In these cases, the airline knows where the bag is and simply needs to manage the logistics of getting it to the traveller.  

The first thing to do is go immediately to the airline’s help desk and alert them. They will then start the search for the missing pieces.  

If the passenger needs to purchase basic items before the arrival of the bag, such as underwear, toothbrushes and other hygiene products, the airline company can be asked to reimburse the costs.  

Passengers have 21 days from the day the luggage is returned to file a written claim and present the receipts for costs incurred. After the 21-day mark, passengers lose the right to claim back.  


Once it has been established the luggage isn’t just misplaced, but actually lost, airlines can be asked to offer monetary compensation. The timeline to consider a bag lost is 21 days after the date it should have arrived, and the maximum compensation a person can ask for is €1,600.  

The payback amounts are rather arbitrary as airlines “do not reimburse lost personal effects on the basis of their new value, but often apply a discount”.  

Again, a written request must be made along with a list of the items lost and purchase invoices for the items. As many people don’t have the receipts for older pieces of clothing or general toiletries, they may offer compensation based on the weight of the lost piece, which is on average €20 per kilo.  

It does get tricky though as two international statutes apply. The Warsaw Convention, which deals with European Union airlines, and the Montreal Convention, which applies regardless of the company’s nationality. Passengers can establish the relevant statutes via their airline ticket.  


In the instance that a bag is destroyed or damaged, travellers can ask for reimbursement of the price of the case as well as damaged contents. This must be done in writing within seven days under the Montreal Convention and three under the Warsaw Convention, and compensation will depend on which convention the passenger’s airline falls under.  

The letter must provide as much information as possible, including photos of the damaged items and purchase receipts.  


If the airline refuses to reimburse, the first step for the passenger is to file an online complaint with the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) or contact the Travel and Tourism Mediator (MTV) to find a solution.  

If this doesn’t result in a satisfactory ending, passengers have two years to bring a lawsuit to court.  

For more information, please click here.


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Photo source: Ante Hamersmit, Unsplash