Has your luggage ever been delayed significantly? This past summer I found myself in Istanbul without any of my bags. They eventually arrived 3 days after I landed. So I’ve decided to tell my story in the hopes it will also inspire and encourage others if they ever happen to be in my shoes.
“Istanbul, babe, here I come,” I told myself on the plane from Brussels to Istanbul in July 2014. I landed at Ataturk airport quite late in the evening, tired but also excited to be in Istanbul and to be giving a lecture on EU Competition Law to European Law Students Association (ELSA) the following morning. My excitement soon turned to apprehension, though, when the airline told me that my luggage with my conference outfit was still in Brussels.
Know your rights if your luggage is delayed
If your luggage is delayed, damaged or lost, you have a right to claim compensation. Such compensation should include both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. Very often we forget to claim non-pecuniary compensation – mostly due to the fact that there are no set rules to calculate this amount. Thus, how successful you are in obtaining compensation for non-pecuniary damages will almost always depend on your ability to prove that the delay of your luggage has caused serious personal/moral injury/pain/suffering.
In my case, the delayed luggage was unexpected and was tremendously inconvenient for me, mostly because I was one of the main speakers at a summer law school session. Not only was I scheduled to speak in front of 65 students from all over Europe, I also had to attend a gala dinner with lawyers and officials.
Since I didn’t have the time to buy new clothes, I didn’t have any receipts or invoices to present to the airline. But I did successfully claim non-pecuniary compensation from the airline for the inconveniences and moral injury caused by the delay.
Formalities and paperwork
As soon as you learn that your luggage is running late, you should go directly to the claim office of your airline and report your problem by filling in the respective forms, which normally ask for your telephone number and an address where your luggage could be delivered to. Make sure you clarify whether the airline will deliver your bags or whether you should pick it up at the airport. Emphasize the urgency of the delivery and do not forget to express your disappointment with the service. Following that, go home/to the hotel and wait for your luggage to arrive.
Make sure you have contacted the airline by email and claimed compensation for the delay of your luggage within 21 days of getting your bags back (and no later, as missing the deadline for filing it could invalidate your claim). In addition to stating your claims, you should attach the following documents:
- A copy of the ticket or boarding pass;
- A list indicating your expenses during the period of late delivery, along with receipts and invoices/credit card statements, if available;
- Copy of the passport or ID card;
- Your permanent address; and
- If your luggage is damaged and can be repaired, an invoice for the repair. If the bag cannot be repaired, a document proving the price of the piece of luggage and issued by the authorized company. It’s also wise to attach photographs of the damaged part of your bag.
What happens if you don’t have any receipts to send? You should state and justify your claim amount for non-pecuniary damages, like I did. When justifying my claim for the violation of my rights as a passenger, I relied on provisions of international law, including those provisions of the Montreal Convention that relate to the destruction, loss, damage or delay to baggage.
Highlights of the Montreal Convention to remember
- Checked-in baggage is considered “lost” if it has not arrived 21 days after the date it was due to arrive;
- The airline is liable for the baggage delay, unless it took all reasonable measures to avoid the delay or it was impossible to take such measures due to force major;
- Compensation for the delay, damage or loss of luggage should be approx. 1,250 Euros or at least no less than 20 Euros per kg. Hence, in case your luggage is 20 kg, you are entitled to compensation of at least 400 Euros; and
- If the airline does not agree with your claim, you can always take them to court. Any action in court to claim damages must be brought within 2 years from the date of arrival of the aircraft, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived.
Almost, but not quite there yet
Following the assessment of your claim, the airline should get back to you within a reasonable time with an official letter/decision and if you agree with it, you should sign it, provide your bank account details and send back by post.
One of the things that complicates the whole process of actually getting the money is the fact that you will most likely have to provide a Turkish Lira bank account (which, by the way, you can open only if you have a valid residence permit). Otherwise, you can provide the bank account of a Turkish friend or relative, but their authority to do so has to be approved at the notary (which means additional expenses in terms of time and money. Bear this in mind when determining your compensation amount).
Hopefully your luggage will never get lost or delayed. But even if it does, never panic and always remember to fight for your passenger rights! As only by doing so will we have a chance to improve the service and avoid spoilt vacations or business trips in the future.
Hanna Stakheyeva is a contributor to Yabangee