France travel: What are your rights for late, lost or damaged luggage?

If the worst does happen, here are some tips on what you should do next

A woman in a red jacket holding her hands to her head next to an empty luggage conveyor belt at an airport
Losing your luggage or getting it back damaged can severely impact your trip
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Losing your luggage, having it damaged or arriving later than planned can spoil your holiday.

Here we take a look at your rights if it happens to you.

What protections are in place?

Your airline is legally required to help you regarding luggage issues.

The procedure depends on whether the flight is covered by the Montreal Convention or the Warsaw Convention.

The convention used should be stated somewhere on your booking or ticket. If your booking does not make this clear, you should ask your airline to specify.

The Montreal Convention applies:

  • When the flight takes place between two states that have ratified the convention

  • On all flights operated by European Union-based airlines (no matter the flight destination)

The Warsaw Convention applies:

  • No matter the nationality of the airline

  • On flights where neither nation (e.g. the departure and the arrival country) has ratified the Montreal Convention

  • On flights where only one of the nations has ratified the Montreal Convention

Delayed baggage

Luggage is considered to be officially delayed if it is not delivered to you when you get off the plane and only returned to you later.

  • Report delayed luggage immediately to the airline counter, or contact the airline by phone when you arrive. This means they can register your complaint and launch a search if needed.

You will need to have a file number from your airline to track your complaint and bags.

  • Montreal Convention: You have 14 days from the date on which the baggage was initially supposed to arrive to make a claim in writing to the carrier

  • Warsaw Convention: You have 21 days.

If you do not make a complaint before this deadline, no action can be taken against the airline, whether your bag is delayed or lost.

If the delay to your luggage has required you to buy replacements of essential items, such as hygiene products or underwear, you can request your money back from the airline, if you present proof of purchase receipts.

Lost baggage

Luggage is considered officially ‘lost’ if your carrier admits the loss of your checked baggage, or if your baggage has not arrived at your destination within 21 days of the date on which it should have arrived.

In this case, you can then proceed to claim a refund for your lost baggage and belongings.

The process requires you to:

  • Send a written request to the airline, preferably by recorded delivery with acknowledgement of receipt, enclosing the purchase invoices for the lost items;

  • If you have no supporting documents, you may be offered compensation by weight (approximately €20 per kg).

Damaged baggage

If your baggage has been damaged or destroyed during transit, you can claim reimbursement for the cost of the baggage and the damaged goods. To do this, you will be asked to provide as much information as possible.

For example, you may be asked for photographs of the damaged goods, purchase invoices and other supporting evidence.

To claim, you must write to the company:

  • Montreal Convention: Within 7 days of receiving your damaged luggage

  • Warsaw Convention: Within 3 days of receiving your damaged luggage

What compensation is available for damage or loss?

Caps on the amount of compensation available are set in International Monetary Fund (IMF) units, known as Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). These vary according to currency changes.

Compensation is legally capped at:

  • Montreal Convention: 1,288 SDRs: approximately €1,667 per passenger

  • Warsaw Convention: 22 SDR per kg of baggage, approximately €28 per kg

Most airlines do not reimburse lost personal effects based on their value when new.

Similarly, if your loss or damaged baggage value comes to less than these caps, you can only claim for the lower amount you have lost. And if your loss exceeds these caps, you cannot claim for more.

However, you may be able to claim additional money back via separate insurance, such as bank card or travel insurance.

What happens in the event of a dispute?

French consumer and fraud detection agency la Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) recommends that you first contact the relevant airline customer service department, and keep a copy of your complaint.

If the carrier refuses to pay compensation, you can take action by:

  • Making an online complaint to the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC);

  • Making a complaint to the tourism and travel ombudsman (le Médiateur Tourisme Voyage, MTV) if the company has signed the Mediation Charter.

If these procedures are also unsuccessful, you can also take legal action and claim damages for the loss suffered (replacement of objects, loss of or damage to baggage).

If you wish to take legal action against the airline, you have two years in which to do so.

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