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What are my rights if my baggage is lost or delayed? Can I get compensation?

What happens if an airline loses your bag or luggage? Our travel editor shares his tips...


Lost or delayed luggage can be a big inconvenience

Lost or delayed luggage can be a big inconvenience

Lost or delayed luggage can be a big inconvenience

Dante was the 13th-century Italian writer who so graphically described the nine circles of hell. Were he alive today, I can imagine where he might take inspiration for a 10th.

While most passengers are making their flights and not losing bags, reports of luggage delays, backlogs (and a “baggage mountain” at Heathrow) have been widely shared.

Passengers are understandably anxious, and some have been venting on social media... not just about delayed cases disrupting the start of holidays, but about several additional circles of customer service hell.

So how can you avoid losing baggage when you fly, and what are your rights and compensation entitlements if luggage does end up lost or delayed?

Before you go

Firstly, consider not checking in bags at all.

I know that’s easier said than done for families (we’re having the same arguments as everyone else over how best to pack outfits, shopping and beach towels).

But airports, airlines and ground handlers are under such stress this summer, with backlogs and delays capable of turning molehills into mountains, that it may be worth skipping this part of the system entirely - particularly if you have connecting flights.

Using less luggage saves you money, and carry-on allows you to avoid bag-drop queues ( Dublin Airport currently advises allowing up to an extra hour if you have to check in or drop a bag).

When booking carry-on bags, it's best to act early, as the overhead bin space on planes is limited. Priority Boarding can also mean you get a better pick of bin space as you board earlier - this can sell out, so book it when you buy your flight, too.

You should also have travel insurance in place before your trip.

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Carry-on or checked bags?

If you travel with carry-on bags only, make a packing list and refresh yourself on security protocols (particularly the 100ml rule for liquids, gels and pastes).

If you must check a bag, take a photo of it, keep a record of its tag or ID number and make sure you have your name and contact details attached to it (you can also leave a business card inside). Take a moment to remove remnants of ID tags from previous flights (typically bar code stickers).

Lots of bags look alike, so consider adding a small item to help identify it - a colourful name tag or piece of fabric, for example (though be sure this is tidy, so as not to risk it getting caught in machinery).

When packing, remember to keep any valuables, sentimental items and essential medicines in your carry-on, as well as some basic layers and swimwear to tide you over.

Some tech-savvy travellers use AirTags, which can be placed inside a bag to track its location through Apple’s ‘Find My’ network. Though these can help you find a lost bag, clearly trackers won't prevent it being lost or delayed in the first place.

As a rule of thumb - anything heading to the hold can get lost or delayed.

After you arrive

If your bag doesn’t appear on the carousel after a flight, report this immediately with the airline and/or ground handler by filling out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR).

It's essential to report a lost or delayed bag before leaving the airport.

A PIR describes your luggage and its contents, and provides a contact address (take a photo of the report for your records, and remember to keep your boarding card and bag tags).

Many airlines have online tracking facilities and phone lines for baggage follow-ups (Ryanair: 01 812 1367 or online here; Aer Lingus: 01 761 7838 or online here), but these can be busy at times.

Ryanair and Aer Lingus handle their own bags in Dublin, but use third-party providers elsewhere. Other airlines use companies like Sky Handling or Swissport (contact details on Dublin Airport's website). The responsibility for lost luggage lies with individual airlines, not Dublin Airport operator, DAA.

Some airlines offer a daily allowance for delayed bags, so ask about this.

The Montreal Convention makes airlines liable for lost, delayed or damaged bags, with compensation limited to 1,288 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), currently worth approximately €1,664 (see exchange rates here).

While you wait for your bag to show up, keep receipts for any essential items you have to buy. Most baggage will eventually be delivered (I’ve never had a late bag not turn up), but luggage is considered lost after 21 days.

After that, you enter another Dante-esque circle of hell — filing and negotiating claims for compensation with the airline.

Customer service is under extreme strain, and extraordinary circumstances (strikes, for example) can allow airlines wriggle room on claims, so have travel insurance in place. Insurance for lost or delayed luggage will usually involve an excess, but claims may well prove simpler.

See eccireland.ie or thecai.ie for more.

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