When you buy a ticket for your journey you have a contract with the company - whether it is a bus, coach, ferry, train or airline. Their website will confirm their particular terms and conditions of the contract. The law often also applies minimum terms that they must offer you. 

Their website will usually set out what they offer if your journey was delayed or you face other problems. Most travel companies also run customer service help-lines which will be the first step to take in sorting out your problem. If this does not solve the problem then you should put your complaint in writing. If this does not resolve the problem you will need to consider mediation or finally legal action. 

The rules relating to airlines are more complicated and is summarised below (delays &  lost luggage and also damaged luggage) together with sample complaint letters intended to comply with these special rules.

 

Summary of the law - AIRLINE – LOST OR DELAYED LUGGAGE

Your rights  - lost or delayed airline luggage

 

The rules apply to the luggage that gets checked in at the departure airport (not luggage you carry with you on the plane):

  • The cost of replacing essential items whilst luggage is delayed.
  • The reasonable expenses you incur such as taxi to buy essential replacement items, taxi to pick up delayed luggage from airport.
  • The value of lost luggage (if it has not turned up after 21 days from being checked in).
  • The cost of damage to your luggage.


The Montreal Convention makes the airline responsible. BUT airlines responsibility for your checked in bags is limited up to €1,131 (around £1000) per passenger (including reasonable expenses).

You can only claim the full value of your luggage over this limit  if you had made  make a 'special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage' (usually for expensive items)

Take care over the deadlines for claiming as explained below.

  • Luggage is declared lost after 21 days (anything up to this point is classed as delayed).
  • To claim for lost luggage you must claim within seven days of it being declared lost.

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

 

1: Notify luggage delayed or lost within 21 days (usually to staff at arrival airport)  -  you will be asked to complete a “Property Irregularity Report”.

2: If not found after 21 days (from check in) write to airline within 7 days.

3: Provide receipts for essential items bought whilst abroad.

4: provide receipts for reasonable expenses such as taxis

5: If not found after 21 days try to list everything in suitcase.

6: Then provide proof /valuation of contents of suitcase (realistically you will not have receipts for everything but hopefully you can prove the cost of the more expensive items and the airline will accept an estimate for cheaper items.

 

What is the deadline for claiming

 

For delayed luggage:  Notify the airline within 21 days from when you handed your luggage to the airline. Most people will notify staff at the arrival airport. If it cannot be found quickly you will be asked to fill in a “Property Irregularity Report”

Lost Luggage: You need to write after 21 days (when it is treated as lost) but before 28 days – as you have 7 days to write from the date the luggage has been declared lost.

 

Example claims

 

  • Checked in luggage not arriving at destination on arrival (up to 21 days).
  • Checked in luggage arriving damaged
  • Checked in luggage not arriving at destination after 21 days (lost). 

 

 

Disclaimer reminder

 

Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website

 

Format - complaint letter (lost or delayed airplane luggage)

 

 

Information to include

Sample letter –  Lost or delayed airline luggage 

1

Start of official letter to other side.

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,

2

Background

Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  ​

Background – lost luggage

I recently flew with your airline. The flight details are:
Flight date: 20 January 2014
Flight number: BTR 3459
Departure airport: London Gatwick
Arrival airport: Rome Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport

3

Payments

Details of any payments requested and any payments made.

Payments

I paid £275 for the return flight.

4

Complaint – lost luggage 

Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates – it needs to be lost for 21 days to claim

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. ​

Complaint – Lost luggage for 21 days

My checked in luggage did not arrive at my destination. 


I notified a member of your team at the airport who asked me to fill in a “Property Irregularity Report” which I did. 


My luggage has now been missing for 21 days.

5

Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

Arriving at my destination without my luggage was a great inconvenience:

  • It mean that  I did not have most of my essential items for the trip 
  • It also meant that I had to waste time on my trip replacing some of these items.
  • As a result  I had less money than anticipated to spend on leisure activities during the course of my holiday
  • I had the added stress of trying to sort this out when I was there.

 

6

Losses and expenses 

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.

Losses and expenses

In my suitcase there were the following items that I have not yet replaced:

  • Dell laptop, £400. I bought this less than a year ago and attach my proof of purchase from PC World
  • Rayban designer sunglasses. 2 years old bought from…
  • footwear: …details
  • Clothing: …details
  • Toiletries: … details 

The details of the essential items that I have replaced in Rome are:

  • Clothing from Gap as listed on attached receipt €389
  • Clothing from C&A as listed on attached receipt €12
  • Toiletries from Body Shop as listed on attached receipt €28
  • 2 taxi journeys from hotel to shopping centre to buy the items listed, see taxi receipts, €20

I enclose copies of my receipts for replacement items along with any necessary purchases and costs incurred as a result of the lost bag.  ​

 

7

Remedy

Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like. 

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop). 
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the you seek

Remedy

Under the Montreal Convention I would like to claim compensation for my lost luggage and expenses as listed above:

  • Items in suitcase (as above) £548
  • Items replaced and expenses in Rome (as above) which total €449.00. The current euro/pound exchange rate is 0.83, so I would accept £372.67.

Total claimed is therefore £920.67

8

Reply

Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek 

OR 

  • arrange to inspect the problem

OR

  • set out their detailed response.

 

Reply

Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

9

Consequences

Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.

Consequences

I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I will raise a complaint with the Civil Aviation Authority and progress further, if necessary, until this matter is resolved.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.

9

Ending

[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely,

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 

Ian Rate

 

 

Summary of the law - AIRLINE – DAMAGED LUGGAGE

Your rights  - lost or delayed airline luggage

 

The rules apply to the luggage that gets checked in at the departure airport (not luggage you carry with you on the plane):

  • The cost of replacing essential items damaged on arrival at your destination.
  • The reasonable expenses you incur such as taxi to buy essential replacement items.
  • The cost of damage luggage (repair or replacement – whichever is reasonable in the circumstances. 

You must write to the airline within seven days of receiving your damaged luggage.

The Montreal Convention makes the airline responsible. BUT airlines responsibility for your checked in bags is limited up to €1,131 (around £1000) per passenger (including reasonable expenses).

You can only claim the full value of your luggage over this limit  if you had made  make a 'special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage' (usually for expensive items)


The Montreal Convention makes the airline responsible. BUT airlines responsibility for your checked in bags is limited up to €1,131 (around £1000) per passenger (including reasonable expenses).

You can only claim the full value of your luggage over this limit  if you had made  make a 'special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage' (usually for expensive items)

Take care over the deadlines for claiming as explained below.

  • Luggage is declared lost after 21 days (anything up to this point is classed as delayed).
  • To claim for lost luggage you must claim within seven days of it being declared lost.

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

 

1: Notify luggage damaged as soon as you realise (usually to staff at arrival airport)  -  you will be asked to complete a “Property Irregularity Report”.

2: Take photos to shoe the damage to the suitcase and contents.

3: Provide receipts for essential items bought whilst abroad.

4: Provide receipts for reasonable expenses such as taxis

5: List everything damaged.

6: Then provide proof /valuation of damaged items (realistically you will not have receipts for everything but hopefully you can prove the cost of the more expensive items and the airline will accept an estimate for cheaper items).

What is the deadline for claiming

 

Ideally notify staff at the airport as soon as you spot the damage.
Write to the airline within seven days of receiving your luggage.

 

 

Format - complaint letter (damaged airplane luggage)

 

 

Information to include

Sample letter –  Damaged airline luggage 

1

Start of official letter to other side.

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,

2

Background

Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  ​

Background – damaged luggage

I recently flew with your airline. The flight details are:
Flight date: 20 January 2014
Flight number: BTR 3459
Departure airport: London Gatwick
Arrival airport: Rome Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport

3

Payments

Details of any payments requested and any payments made.

Payments

I paid £275 for the return flight.

4

Complaint  

Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates – it needs to be lost for 21 days to claim

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible. ​

Complaint


When I collected my checked-in luggage from the carousel at my destination  I saw that it was damaged. 


I notified a member of your team at the airport who asked me to fill in a “Property Irregularity Report” which I did.


Under the Montreal Convention I would like to claim compensation for the damage to my luggage and its contents.

 

5

Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

As I’m sure you can appreciate, arriving at my destination with a damaged bag (and contents) was highly inconvenient.

I had to buy a new suitcase straight away. This meant I incurred some unexpected additional costs at the beginning of my journey.

My digital SLR camera has also suffered damage to the lens. I will need to replace the  lens.

 

 

6

Losses and expenses 

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.

 

Losses and expenses

  • Damaged suitcase case. It is now unusable. I attach photos I took in the arrivals lounge. I bought a similar replacement at my destination for €295
  • I had a return journey from my hotel to the city centre to buy the replacement suitcase. Se taxi receipts, €20
  • Damaged lens on SLR Camera. I attach a note from The Camera Shop confirming the damage and the cost of replacing the lens at £135
  • Parking in Bristol to have camera inspected (plus same again to collect lens), see ticket. 2 x £2 = £4

I enclose copies of my receipts.

 

7

Remedy

Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like. 

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop). 
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the you seek

Remedy

Under the Montreal Convention I would like to claim compensation for my damaged luggage and expenses as listed above:

  • Items replaced and expenses in Rome (as above) which total €315. The current euro/pound exchange rate is 0.83, so I would accept €315 x 0.83 = £261.45.
  • Lens replacement  and parking £139

Total claimed is therefore £400.45

8

Reply

Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek 

OR 

  • arrange to inspect the problem

OR

  • set out their detailed response.

 

Reply

Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

9

Consequences

Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.

Consequences

I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I will raise a complaint with the Civil Aviation Authority and progress further, if necessary, until this matter is resolved.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.

9

Ending

[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely,

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 

Ian Rate