/ Travel & Leisure

The merry-go-rounds of the luggage carousel

Holiday hassles illustrations

Hundreds of you have complained about luggage issues via our campaign. Gatwick passengers were subject to delays at the baggage carousels last weekend, and the case may be the same this weekend…

Last weekend, passengers of four airlines faced long delays waiting for their luggage to appear on the carousel. Many were advised to go home without their luggage after some passengers waited five hours to be reunited with their bag.

We had a look at the Twittersphere to see how the Gatwick baggage delays have added hassles to your holidays.

Matthew was just happy to be reunited with his bag as British Airways arranged for it to be sent to his home address:

Melanie was less than impressed:

And Edielen was down-right angry:

There are murmurings of similar delays expected this weekend, and an Abta spokeswoman said it was a good idea to keep essentials close to hand:

‘We hope people can pass through Gatwick smoothly this weekend. But if people are concerned, it would be a good idea for them to put essential items in their carry-on bags.’

Gatwick confirmed it isn’t expecting delays but has taken some precautionary measures:

Our Which? Consumer Rights site has a step-by-step guide about what to do if the airline had lost or damaged your bag. But, unfortunately you don’t have many rights if you have faced long delays waiting for your bags.

Have you faced severe delays waiting for your luggage? Do you think we should have more rights when it comes to luggage delays?


When a passenger is unreasonably delayed, airlines often have to pay European statutory compensation of €250/400/600. There should be similar statutory compensation for delayed baggage in order to encourage airlines to prevent these unacceptable delays. I would suggest €100 for each hour that the baggage is delayed beyond the arrival time of the flight.

I wonder if I have some kind of record for lost baggage with no resolution?

I’ve just (day before yesterday) spoken to Which Legal service about a carry on bag that went missing in early 2010! SAS have been dealing with my claim since then and last week offered me a fraction of the sum.

Before departure the ground handlers insisted that I hand over my cabin bag, which was well within dimensions and weight and containing all my important and valuable articles which they promised to look after, which was then put in the hold. This was supposedly because Oslo airport where we were to change planes did not have facilities for examining hand baggage carried by transit passengers changing planes.

My bag never arrived in London. Now, four years later SAS is claiming that they are not responsible for whole classes of items in ‘checked baggage’ ignoring the fact that I did not voluntarily ‘check’ it and only allowed them to take it under protest and with the promise of it being cared for.

We will see what happens and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime ensure that you NEVER allow SAS to take your bag and change its status if this remains their policy!

I sympathise with you. Airlines occasionally insist on taking compliant baggage away from people without taking full responsibility for the contents, and this is incompatible with most travel insurance policies.

I don’t believe a word of what SAS told you about transit security at Oslo airport, otherwise women’s handbags, the contents of one’s pockets and everything else that one is carrying would similarly be prohibited. It sounds as if an SAS representative was making it up as they went along in order to justify their unreasonable attempt to relieve you of your possessions.

Well, it looks as if I’m in for the long haul. SAS wrote today denying responsibility again saying that:

“As stated in our terms and conditions, it is the passengers responsibility to remove all fragile and electronic items before any baggage is checked in. As the items was not removed prior to hand luggage being checked in. Therefore SAS Airlines cannot accept liability in this instance.”

Of course they are completely ignoring the fact that I did not ‘check-in’ my carry-on bag, it was taken from me by them against my wishes, and I was not given any opportunity or permission to take anything out of it. Also, there were no ‘terms and conditions’ available on the departure deck whilst airside and actually walking toward the gate.

I think the problem was that Oslo did not have a working bag x-ray unit for transit baggage so they wanted to avoid time lost in manual searching . . . at my cost as it happens.

Still, all is not lost, I am a member of Which? Legal Service and had advice from the lawyer there so my response to today’s message which they said was a ‘final offer’ for the bag itself and a few items of toiletries and clothes – but not the electronic or valuable items that one normally keeps in hand baggage and which were taken from me under protest – was to say that I found their offer unacceptable and that they should consider my response to be a ‘letter before action’ giving them a week to settle.

We will see what happens. In the meantime I’ve circulated my clients with information about how I was and am being treated and am pleased to note that one company has begun to review its use of this carrier. I’ll keep everyone here posted on progress. As NFH and Brian have commented It really is time that the airlines had standards imposed for their baggage handling and liabilities.

By comparison in the USA in January during the storms when many aircraft were diverted my checked case flew to the wrong airport. Despite weaker consumer laws the airlines there seem to understand the effect that influence of disgruntled passengers can have. I was given emergency assistance, a change of clothes and shoes (two of underclothes and socks), toiletries and a modest ‘inconvenience allowance’. My case was hand delivered some 36 hours later.

Rather different to SAS who lost the bag four years ago and are still evading responsibility!

Brian D Allingham says:
3 August 2014

I stupidly left a jacket in an overhead bin in a flight arriving at Edinburgh. After several telephone calls, e-mails etc (some of them circular, eg phone this number, send this e-mail and you find yourself back where you started) my wife went to the airport Lost and Found department and recovered the item.

Why do airports and airlines not have a proper system for these items, which must be legion.

Referring to Martin’s dreadful experience above and comments in another Conversation about last minute attempts by airlines to re-dispose lugage before take-off, it seems that the whole question of compliant hand-baggage being removed from passengers and transferred to the cargo hold needs critical examination. I am convinced that this because of lax control of over-sized hand-baggage that has been admitted to the passenger compartment. I hesitate to suggest additional paperwork, but in view of the exclusions in insurance policies there needs to be some sort of transfer note by which the airline accepts responsibility for the security of anything which they request or require passengers to hand over for hold storage. Insurers need to adapt their policies [including both travel and home contents policies where relevant] to reflect this risk. Ideally this action by airlines will be an extremely rare occurrence but if it seems likely to become routine then airlines need to provide a separate secure cage within the hold for such baggage and that cage should be transferred securely to the arrrival hall where passengers can collect its contents [in exchange for the original transfer note] rather than just be tipped out with the rest of the luggage onto the conveyer taking it to the reclaim carousel. It is a temptation to anyone dishonest in the baggage-handling crew, or even waiting at the carousel, to pick up a small piece of hand baggage that is likely to contain valuable items. To ease the security screening process I usually put my keys, coins, mobile phone, and other pocket items in a small bag inside my flight bag which I expect to keep on the plane under the seat in front of me; this is probably no longer a good idea. At the departure gate the airline staff are usually trying to get the pasengers on the plane a.q.a.p. in order to avoid delay penalties and I can imagine people being pressed to surrender their hand baggage without time to think much about the contents or without having any other quick and convenient way of carrying their fragile or valuable items onto the plane. Aparrt from anything else, the cargo hold is not maintained at cabin temperature and some items could suffer damage as a result of the chilling and reheating that occurs. I hope Martin has a successful outcome to his claim; if it goes to court I think there is a case for aggravated damages because of the persistent prevarication and repudiation of liability over a protracted period that SAS has compelled him to endure.

Well, time is up for SAS (see above) and I guess we’ll have our day in court. They have not started well, just ignored me despite my pointing out in my letter before action that the court expects them to respond to my communications.

Also, when directly requested in writing they did not respond with a ‘service address’ for the court papers . . . the court won’t like that kind of arrogance / ignorance.

I shall write another email telling them that unless they give me the response that the pre trial protocols and practice directions require I shall also claim for the time that I spend in unnecessary correspondence and research.

What a bunch of chancers . . . I’ve been reading the reviews on the various travel sites and have come to the conclusion that SAS have lost their grip and have slid entirely down the pan! Strangely the two worst airlines i have dealt with in recent years have both been Scandinavian, the other was Finnair who threw my families bags into deep salty slush and would not even apologise! So much for the reputation of Scandinavian values!

Good Luck Martin. Hope you get a favourable resolution.
Airlines do need to be held accountable.

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Whats the latest on the court action Martin ?

SAS suck! YUP my bag didn’t arrive at Heathrow on a SAS flight, I fly every 2 weeks to Sweden (for last 4 years!) and use either BA, SAS or Norwegian. I have to say Norwegian are great with “fair prices” new planes, decent leg room and wifi (although some times a bit flakey) but as for SAS no wonder they have nearly gone bankrupt:
** shoddy rickety old planes
** staff feel like they are doing you a favour (although to be honest thats the norm in Sweden!)
** high prices and you don’t even get drink or a roll
** poor leg room, probably the worst, although not a bad as say Ryan Air.

As for BA, well they were the best, however now they still charge “top dollar” prices, but the service is now mediocre, but at least you get a drink and a roll, shame that are ALWAYS late!!

Martin this might help i found it on the web, quite informative and covers your exact scenario (link for full details at bottom of exert)

*Forcing you to check a carry-on bag*
The second scenario arises when an airline forces you to check a bag that you had expected to take onto the plane with you as a carry-on item.

If the bag you are forced to check (in conjunction with any/all other items you are attempting to carry onto the plane) complies with the airline’s normal Conditions of Carriage provisions for carry on items (ie it isn’t too big or too heavy and you don’t have too many other items you are also carrying on with you), but you are forced to check the bag due to whatever operational reason primarily to serve the convenience of the airline (maybe a brief period of heightened security, or a simple lack of space in the aircraft cabin) and if, as a result of checking the bag, you suffer either damage or a loss, then it would seem likely that the airline’s deliberate negation of its own Conditions of Carriage contract with you also negates any exclusionary provisions or limits on liability that would otherwise apply.

In particular, airlines seek to exclude themselves from any liability towards the loss of fragile or valuable items in checked baggage. Accordingly, prudent passengers choose to pack these items in their carry on baggage. If the airline now insists on checking that carry on bag, it seems fair that they must accept an unlimited liability for the safety of the contents of that bag.

Again, this is a line of reasoning that you may well find a Small Claims Court sympathetic towards accepting.


That is excellent Jim, thank you. I’m expecting to have a few days over Christmas to catch up on a couple of things and issuing proceedings against SAS is one of them.

It’s fascinating how arrogant this shower are. I completed the process as outlined in the Courts and Tribunals Service pages giving them every opportunity to discuss further and settle but they simply ceased to answer me. Not only that they failed to give me their ‘service address’ to which to send court documents. I expect that a court will take a very dim view of that.

There is also the enormous cost of negative PR. There are three businesses that I have influenced over the last few months who have chosen to fly with other carriers in sympathy with me . . . I just hope the other carriers are a little more honest and straightforward.

One of the more obscure benefits of being in the EU means that I can apply for judgement here and have it enforced in their headquarters country. If they continue to ignore me I might even apply to have an aircraft impounded something that someone else succeeded in doing last Summer I recall. That would be fun though I’d rather not have to take delivery of any of the tatty old fleet that they seem to employ on European routes.

Well, the end of another year approaches and with it the anniversary of the incident. Also, I have a few days off in the UK to track down a ‘service address’ for SAS to which to send the County Court papers.

I spent an hour on the task today and found that the only postal address in the Airlines Directory was for their PR reps who happened to be contractors. When I called them I spoke to a reception / switchboard lady and was given an 0871 number to ring to speak to ‘customer services’ – which I politely refused to do since I have no intention of paying through the nose to be given the run around again.

The lady was rather brighter than SASs staff and, after asking me to outline the problem, seemed to realise that this adverse PR could have a serious negative effect. She then asked me to wait whilst she got advice from someone senior. She came back and told me that as it was the last working day before Christmas it would be difficult to achieve much immediately and would I accept the offer of a callback immediately after Christmas. Since she had showed some initiative and a lot of politeness I agreed and we will see what happens next!

In the meantime I have all the paperwork ready to nip down to the County Court.

Result! Well, a partial one anyway. On returning home after the New Year I found that some kind soul had spent Christmas Eve digging in the records and had made an executive decision. An offer to settle for the full amount of the claim.

A pity there is no suggestion of something to recognise the delays, prevarication, hours spent chasing them etc. but a partial result nevertheless.

It’s interesting that over the last four or five years the development of consumer / customer power through communication really has changed the balance. Because of the growing understanding of ‘reputational value’ and the importance of positive PR it would seem that the ‘pressure point’ was the PR function although I think that is actually contracted out.

Lessons learned . . . never let airlines try to change the contract ‘at the gate’ or on boarding. Be aware that cabin baggage is far more privileged than hold baggage and if a change in status is attempted register your protest.

I’m going to look into whether attempted forced change in status of baggage on pain of preventing boarding is a breach of the airline’s contract. I find that a friend who is an aircraft captain of many years standing can find all sorts of buried rules to help – for instance there are classes of people who should be automatically boarded first under IATA regulations and not because they have paid a fee to be so. Perhaps there are similar hidden regulations in respect of our baggage.

Thank you for the support and help from this conversation. I’ll raise my coffee cup to you all on my next flight!

Thanks for letting us know the outcome and at least it’s over. It’s shameful that the public relations consequences have more bearing on the result than the rightness of your claim. In a way, I think the fact that their PR function is contracted out is helpful: it brought a different angle to the question which hitherto, within the company, had been met with dogged intransigence. Without wishing to put too much weight on their influence, a PR bod might have said to an SAS executive – “if you end up in hot water over this don’t expect us to bale you out”. A good PR advisor would have recommended giving you a free flight voucher [they probably did], and a decent company would have done so [they obviously didn’t].