/ Travel & Leisure

Brief cases: refused reimbursement for lost luggage

We helped a member get her money back after an airline refused to refund the cost of her replacement items…

Two of our Which? Legal members flew from Gatwick to Innsbruck, Austria, for a walking holiday with friends.

Unfortunately, the holdall containing their walking boots did not arrive with them, so before leaving Innsbruck airport they completed a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) to log it as missing.

Guide: the airline has lost or damaged my bag, what can I do? 

The holdall was eventually found and delivered to their hotel, but they had already bought replacement boots at a cost of £310 after waiting three days without an update.

On returning to the UK, they contacted the airline and asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the replacement boots. After the company offered £50 compensation instead, they contacted Which? Legal for advice.

Our advice

We advised that they were protected under the Montreal Convention 1999 and the Package Travel Regulations 1992.

We explained that they were legally entitled to claim for reasonable costs of replacing the items that didn’t arrive with her in Austria, as walking boots were an essential item to allow them to enjoy their holiday.

As the airline refused this refund, they then had the right to escalate the complaint to be independently reviewed by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).

This can often be used as leverage to influence tour operators to reconsider their position.

This resulted in a full refund of £310 to reimburse them for the cost of replacing the walking boots.

The law

Articles 18 and 19 of the Montreal Convention 1999 make the air carrier liable for damage or loss of baggage while under its control, so it was legally responsible for ensuring the bag arrived in Austria.

The tour operator was ultimately responsible for the holiday under the Package Travel Regulations 1992.

Under both these laws, the members were entitled to claim for their financial losses.

Have you had a holiday ruined by lost luggage? What’s your experience of getting refunded for the disruption caused by misplaced bags?


I flew from the UK to Stavanger via Schiphol airport and my luggage went elsewhere. KLM were extremely unhelpful and failed to keep me updated as promised, but my case eventually arrived. When I got home I made a successful claim against my travel agent. That was business travel, so I presume that normal consumer protection does not apply.

It’s a hard life in the jet set: “Breakfast in London, lunch in New York, baggage in Buenos Aires”

Luckily I’ve never lost any luggage.

A tip for two people travelling together – share your clothes and essential items between the two suitcases so that if one goes missing you can survive on the contents of the other one. If they both go missing then there’s not much you can do except hope.

I once went to Germany with just a carrier bag, deciding to buy everything else I would need when I got there. It worked out alright but I had to buy a small suitcase for the return journey.

And I thought we were the only couple to do that. On our first visit to the US we took fairly cheap cases, which were duly wrecked by the Baggage Manglers, but the exchange rate was so good we were able to buy four new Samsonite cases for the return home, which have seen sterling service and are now used by the offspring.

Luggage is always a compromise between lightness and capacity on one hand and strength and endurance on the other.

Our cases received minor damage in Venice when transferring from the train to a riverboat on the way to the hotel as they were just hurled into an open boat being towed and ours went in first with others piled on top. Another traveller had the pleasure of seeing her suitcase floating in the water until it was rescued by a boatman. A second tip would be to put all contents into plastic bags or sacks before packing them in your suitcase.

Article 31(2) of the Montreal Convention gives you up to seven days to complain to the airline about damaged baggage, so if you discover damage after you leave the airport or there’s airline representative in the airport to take a report from you without a significant wait, don’t accept an airline’s insistence that its contract of carriage requires you to fill in a “property irregularity report” before you leave the airport. An airline’s contract of carriage cannot override the Montreal Convention, because Article 49 of the Montreal Convention states “Any clause contained in the contract of carriage and all special agreements entered into before the damage occurred by which the parties purport to infringe the rules laid down by this Convention, whether by deciding the law to be applied, or by altering the rules as to jurisdiction, shall be null and void”.

Some years ago, we had a suitcase wrecked when flying with Virgin Atlantic.

At the airport, we went to the reporting desk in the baggage reclaim area and were offered a huge suitcase as a replacement. The size of the case made it unusable so our only other option was to have ours repaired and they gave us an address to take it to.

The case had been squashed and the stiff supporting sides broken. The repairer put some staples in it and declared it repaired which of course it wasn’t.

We contacted Virgin who didn’t want to know as the case had been repaired.

We had no choice but to buy a new suitcase.

Pete Simms says:
22 April 2020

We went to Australia last year, using Singapore Airlines, to cut a very long story short, my wife’s Luggie Mobility Scooter was damaged to the tune of £ 1,800 on arrival.
On return to the U.K. we put in a claim to the airline and according to the Montreal Convention 1999, they were only liable for a maximum of around £ 1,100 for damage.
They would not pay any more than that amount.
Fortunately we had our OWN insurance for the Scooter and had to claim through them, they were brilliant.
Be aware that it would seem that ALL Airlines will only pay this amount regardless of the final sum you are claiming.