Friday, 5 November 2010

British Airways Delivers Baggage Delay Compensation

On a recent holiday trip on British Airways to the lovely city of Barcelona, my wife and I got that sinking feeling on arrival when our bag did not show up. A day later, after we had gone shopping for essential bits of clothing and toiletries, BA did deliver the bag and everything was fine after that, including the bag's trip home, simultaneously with us.

Normally, this would not be worth noting. The big, and pleasant, surprise, which is worth a pat on the back to British Airways, is that the airline reimbursed all our expenses due to the wayward bag! Far different from the - how shall we say this politely - typical nasty treatment of passengers by such as Ryanair, who have to be coerced by the authorities to redress nasty behaviour e.g. here, BA dealt with our case quickly, politely and efficiently. Within five days of our return home, we had entered a claim online, sent in our invoices as requested by email and been reimbursed through an electronic deposit to our bank account. Well done British Airways.

What is all the more remarkable is that BA could have been a lot stickier with compensation. According to the AirTransport Users Council, the UK's consumer council for air travellers,
"There are no set rules for how airlines must assess baggage claims. For delayed baggage, some airlines offer immediate one-off payments at a set amount to cover emergency purchases (such as toiletries or underwear). Some will pay a set amount per day up to a maximum of days. Others will not make cash payments at the time, but prefer to reimburse expenditure on essential items on seeing the receipts. But the general principle is to cover essential expenditure resulting from the delay to delivery of the baggage."
The airline liability limit for lost or delayed luggage is 1000 Special Drawing Rights (IMF conversion table here) per passenger per the Montreal Convention. Or maybe not. There seems to be confusion about the amount, since BA itself says its liability is actually 1131 SDRs, or about £1000, as does Delta and the AUC, but the European Commission's Ireland section says it is 1000 SDRs, equivalent to about 1134 euros. has informative articles here and here on the differences between what airlines may wish to offer as compensation and what are the legal liabilities of baggage delay and claim.

The European Commission has passed laws that put additional responsibilities on air carriers for passenger treatment in cases of cancelled or delayed flights, denied boarding and the like in Regulation EC No. 261/2004. The rules apply to international flights into or out of the EC.

Mishandled baggage still accounts for the 3rd highest number of complaints received by the AUC according to its 2009/10 annual report published in July, though the number was down slightly from the previous year (maybe just in keeping with faltering air travel from the recession?). The AUC's special 2009 report on luggage problems showed that many airlines are much more tight-fisted and mean than BA, with Ryanair apparently a leader in that department as it drew particular mention from the AUC: "Some airlines set their own limits on how much passengers can spend while their bag is delayed. For example, complaints to the AUC show that Ryanair often limits passengers to £15 whatever the length of the delay."

Now if BA would only be as good at delivering baggage in the first place as it is at providing compensation for delay, it would be top class.


Neil said...

Even the best airlines have baggage handling issues. Given the volumes, it's almost shocking it's not more common. Westjet left my bag in Toronto while I was connecting on my way from Alberta to PEI this summer. By the time I realized it was missing, they already had the case open in the system, and just needed a delivery address for the next flight that came in.

It didn't actually occur to me to seek compensation. The delay did cause me to spend an extra day in Charlottetown, but there was no financial loss, so I'm not sure what they'd be compensating. They did offer me a $100 flight credit if I picked the bag up at the airport, which I declined.

CanadianInvestor said...

Neil, re the frequency of baggage problems. That special baggage report says about one bag for every 2000 passengers goes irretrievably missing.

In our case we felt perfectly justified in seeking compensation since all our clothes were in the bag and BA could not tell us they even knew where it was early in the day and how or when the bag would arrive. We did not fancy wearing the same clothes for possibly several days so had to spend several hours buying some essentials. The most annoying bit for me was that my contact lens solution was also in the checked bag. I could not carry the solution on board since the smallest size of solution bottle you can buy is 120ml, which is of course over the 100 ml limit (why that when you could carry ten 100ml bottles, a large empty bottle and mix whatever dangerous concoction you might want?).

Vasile said...


If they were to deliver your baggage, you wouldn't find their state-of-the-art customer service :-). Anyway, I'm happy it all ended well for you.

I don't think you're allowed to carry 1 liter bottles in the carry-on bag, not even empty. I'm not a frequent traveler, but I remember reading something along these lines while waiting at the airport.


CanadianInvestor said...

Hmm, hadn't heard about empty bottles not being allowed. I've sometimes considered taking an empty 500 ml bottle through security to fill up inside security and have water to drink on a long flight.

I wish they would just buy the proper equipment in airports. One of my spectacular investment failures was a company called Intelligent Detection Systems, which ten years ago had bomb sniffing technology that could detect plastic explosives. Today the remnants of the technology lives on as Scintrex Trace At the time it included more than hand-held units; there was a walk-through cabin that would suck air samples and detect really tiny amounts of particles. They claimed even sealed packages wouldn't defeat the detector. Too bad the CEO of IDS was a crook and brought down the company, the technology seemed to have lots of potential.

Neil said...

You can, indeed, carry on empty bottles. I always do, since I am far too cheap to buy bottled water in countries where the tap water is potable, and the amounts served on flights are inadequate (if a free serving exists at all).

The liquids thing is, and always has been, a theatre event, so it doesn't have to make sense. It just has to quiet down the "they have to do something" crowd.

CanadianInvestor said...

Vasile,re the customer service, I was dumbfounded when BA actually called us the morning after our arrival to give us reassurance and a status update on the bag. I wondered if they had mistakenly associated us with pop star Kylie Minogue who was supposed to be on our flight though we didn't see her.

Neil, re the theatre, it makes me sad when I see the frail elderly being subjected to the same rigours of shoes-off, belts off, empty your handbag as everyone else by dint of a combination of political correctness, inability to distinguish real threats, governmental wishful thinking about effectiveness and health and safety culture run amok.

Neil said...

In fairness to arbitrary checks, including the frail and elderly, I'm not sure if you're still catching Canadian news, but a 20 year old Chinese man successfully boarded an Air Canada flight last week, disguised as a very gnarled old guy. The pictures make the disguise look quite convincing.

So I'm less bothered by that, and more bothered by arbitrary rules which prevent nothing.

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