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Airlines lose record amount of luggage

Written by editor

LONDON — Airlines worldwide failed to recover more than one million bags in 2007 after mishandling a record 42 million, a British consumer watchdog said Tuesday, citing industry figures.

LONDON — Airlines worldwide failed to recover more than one million bags in 2007 after mishandling a record 42 million, a British consumer watchdog said Tuesday, citing industry figures.

The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) said passengers were not being fairly compensated “on too many occasions” when airlines lost their luggage because they did not have receipts for the items inside.

The 42 million is an increase from the 34 million pieces of luggage misplaced in 2006 and 30 million in 2005, the AUC said, which added that 1.2 million bags were “irretrievably lost” in 2007.

With annual passenger numbers expected to double in the next decade, the watchdog warned that airlines could be mishandling as many as 70 million bags a year by 2019.

Complaints to the watchdog show low-fare carrier Ryanair “often limits passengers to £15 whatever the length of the (bag) delay,” while budget airline Jet2 “refuses to reimburse passengers for claims under £30.”

AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said some airlines had gone to great lengths to improve baggage handling, but many needed to focus on better compensation for passengers when baggage was mislaid.

“If something does go wrong airlines should be prepared to compensate their passengers fairly. Complaints to the AUC show that passengers often struggle to get reasonable redress from airlines after the event,” she said.

“And with delayed baggage, passengers are often left out of pocket because airlines will not reimburse them fully for expenses they incurred buying essential items whilst they are without their bag,” she added.

The Montreal Convention, which came into force in 2004 and whose signatories include the United States, Japan, China and the European Union, says airlines are obligated to compensate passengers for how much they lose or have to pay to replace the missing items.

Examples from the AUC include: A Ryanair passenger found his guitar had been snapped at the base of the neck. He provided a receipt for £1,800 when bought three years earlier. Ryanair offered £15 because it was more than three years old.

After the AUC, which tries to mediate between passengers and airlines, intervened it said the offer was increased to £754 – Ryanair’s maximum liability at the time.

A passenger travelling with British Airways claimed £792 when two of his three checked-in bags failed to arrive. BA offered £460 but this was increased to nearly all the full amount claimed when the AUC intervened.

Ryanair has rejected the AUC’s report, a spokesman telling the Daily Telegraph that statistics showed the airline was Europe’s best performing in relation to baggage handling.