How much will international airlines reimburse if your bag is delayed?

Posted by Caleb | January 10, 2015

American Airlines recently performed a incredible disappearing act in which they used back-to-back slight of hand “jet bridge” delays to heist our two backpacks off the correct plane and into the abyss. Landing us in Copenhagen, Denmark for four days with no luggage and of course missing warm layers.  For the finale, they rebooked us onto a British Airways flight and then blamed BA for the delay, while also putting them in charge of tracking down our bags.

Copenhagen in late December is frickin cold, thus we had no other option than to look for extra layers to purchase.  When asking around (airport baggage service, British Airways & American Airlines Twitter, BA email support) for what is appropriate to purchase, the best answer we could get as to how to proceed was buy only the essential things you need.  Thus we spent the next three days:

  1. Coming up with different definitions of “essentials”
  2. Hesitantly purchasing more and more clothes, with each purchase causing more buyers’ remorse.
  3. Cursing all airline companies for their lack of accountability.

In the end, our best answer came from a British Airways Twitter direct message, pointing us to the Montreal Convention.  The Montreal Convention (to the best of my knowledge) is an international treaty signed by several governing airline bodies that set rules on different airline procedures.  For the case of lost bags the MC states:

 “In the carriage of baggage, the liability of the carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights for each passenger unless the passenger has made, at the time when the checked baggage was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires. In that case the carrier will be liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum, unless it proves that the sum is greater than the passenger’s actual interest in delivery at destination.”  Link to Montreal Convention 

The twitter account that put us onto the Montreal Convention. Keep in mind, this was the same Twitter account that claimed that they would not be handling our claim just one day before

The twitter account that put us onto the Montreal Convention. Keep in mind, this was the same Twitter account that claimed that they would not be handling our claim just one day before

Just as a reference, Special Drawing Rights (XDR) is an International Monetary Fund, currency mark that is sometimes used in these types of situations.  1000 XDR is just short of $1,400 USD as of January 2016.  This means that the airline is now responsible for $1,400 per person during the time your bag is lost, damaged or delayed.

We figured this out a little late in our baggage delay and only purchased less than $200 worth of clothes and hygiene essentials.  We filed a quick reimbursement claim with British Airways including numbers and pictures of all our receipts, and within a week we were reimbursed directly into our bank account, no questions asked.  This included a purchase that was dated several hours after our bags were actually delivered (though we didn’t know they had arrived yet).

In hindsight, I believe that “essentials” could have been stretched to much more and eventually reimbursed by citing the Montreal Act above.  Believe it or not on our very next flight, Beth’s bag did not show up in Brussels, despite it being a short, non-stop flight from Copenhagen on SAS Airlines. We went to bed thinking it’d surely show up by morning so she didn’t purchase anything, but it ended up taking another 30 hours to be delivered. Once we realized how easy the reimbursement from British Airlines was, we had realized we missed an opportunity to cash in.

If you are looking for more info, the Montreal Convention Wikipedia page is a great start, specifically as it provides a list of countries which abide by this regulation.  As mentioned in the link above, the article of the Montreal Act that mentions delayed or damaged baggage is here.

Quick Disclaimer: The information above is limited to only two particular experiences of delayed baggage.  The evidence posted below is literally pulled from Googling and a Twitter conversation with a British Airways rep.  Meaning, each airline/country/social media rep may interpret some of these laws differently.  If you have a better or different answer to this question, feel free to post it below. 


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