By Michael Otieno

Your service contract with any airline you choose to
travel with is pretty simple; to deliver you and your baggage to the destination of your choice safely. There have been or there will be those anxious moments when your baggage has not or will not arrive with you at that destination. It is even more complicated when you are on international travel.

You have either felt or will feel even more aggravated when that airline of choice remains aloof and unresponsive amid your frustration and mad rants about how you will never fly with them again since your baggage is lost/delayed.

Here is a glimpse into what you should know about your service contract with an airline when you purchase a ticket

Your ticket is a binding contract of service for both parties involved. – Every airline will be quick to tell you what is expected from you as far as your baggage is concerned; don’t pack certain items, (liquids, weapons etc), your check in baggage must x kgs and hang luggage must not exceed y kgs…. the list is never ending and it varies from carrier to carrier. Here is what you should know; all airlines especially members of IATA are bound by certain international conventions which define “conditions of carriage”.

I have not received my baggage on arrival, what do I do? – While the service contract between you and your airline is clear, many carriers seldom meet their end of the bargain due to circumstances within or outside their control.

Hence in the fine print attached to your copy of the ticket (hereby referred to as contract), nearly all airlines have this clause “carrier undertakes to use its best effort to carry passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch” – their way of absolving themselves from full liability. As a passenger ensures you report your baggage delay/ loss immediately to the carrier or its appointed agent by completing the lost baggage form from the airline. Make sure you hold a valid reference number for your complaint. Airlines do not honor complaints of baggage loss coming in later than 21 days of travel.

My baggage was never found and the airline has gone silent on me, what should I do? The Warsaw Convention which governs international journeys stipulates that the airlines liability is limited for loss delayed or damage to baggage unless a higher value is declared in advance of the travel and additional charges paid.

So don’t waste your time or the airlines saying you had six DVD players and twenty iPhones plus a Canon camera in the baggage if you did not declare this at check in so that your baggage is specially handled. Incase value of commodities in checked in baggage is declared and the baggage is lost or damaged the airline is bound to compensate based on actual receipts, otherwise the following will usually apply; USD 20 per kilo for checked baggage and USD 400 per passenger for unchecked baggage.

For travel within the US, federal rules apply. Where all these conditions are met and the airline does not offer any amicable/acceptable settlement, as a passenger you reserve the right to engage a legal counsel and sue not only for compensation as stipulated in the conditions of carriage but also for other things like loss of time, mental anguish.

Travel enlightened in 2013.
The author is an Airline Consultant; Twitter:@pmykee143, [email protected]

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