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Montreal Convention: Your rights in short
The Montreal Convention was concluded on May 28, 1999 for the protection of passengers, luggage and goods on international flights. Since that date, 136 countries have joined, and are therefore covered by the agreement.
According to the current exchange rate (as of May 2019), airlines are liable for the loss, damage or destruction of luggage up to the amount of 1 500 € per passenger. This compensation is to cover the replacement of emergency purchases (such as clothing and toiletries), and the repair or replacement of the luggage itself. To have a successful claim, however, it must be proven that the airline is responsible for issues relating to baggage. Furthermore the relevant emergency purchases have to be proven by respective invoices.
Whether your baggage is lost, delayed or damaged, it should be reported immediately. For damaged baggage, you have within 7 days to claim against the airline. When baggage is delayed, the deadline is longer, and you have 21 days in which to report the issue. In the event your suitcase is officially lost, there is a period of 2 years when you may make your claim.
With the loss or damage of baggage, it is not always possible to replace everything with the compensation amount described above and money cannot replace personal or sentimental belongings. When your luggage is delayed, it can ruin a trip as you may have packed essentials in your checked-in bag. That is exactly why passengers should still assert their rights in such cases. There is the option of choosing MYFLYRIGHT to help pursue your claim, with no financial risk and minimal time and effort. Only in the event of a successful outcome is a 25% commission fee, plus VAT, applied. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%.
Compensation under the 1999 Montreal Convention
If your baggage arrives late, damaged, or is totally lost, it is extremely frustrating and may ruin your trip. It can also be rather costly, when you consider the necessary replacement purchases when this occurs. Fortunately, you can receive compensation from the airline when you experience any of these three issues.
In contrast to the EU Passenger Rights Regulation, which precisely defines the compensation a passenger may expect to receive in the event of a flight irregularity, the Montreal Convention only states the maximum possible limit available for each passenger.
To help you to calculate the possible amount you may receive from the airline, you can use the MYFLYRIGHT compensation calculator for free.
Content of the Montreal Convention
The Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, more commonly known as the Montreal Convention, is, alongside EU Regulation 261 / 2004, the most important legal basis for international air travel. It mainly regulates liability for damages that may incur in the international carriage of air passengers, as well as in the transport of baggage and freight. Signed in 1999, the Montreal Convention is the most recent successor to the 1929 Warsaw Convention, which was drawn up to simplify and harmonise the various rules regarding international air transport.
The following factors make up the main content of the agreement:
- Liability for delayed, damaged or lost luggage
- Liability for passenger injury or death
- Liability for freight
Within this article, we will focus on the compensation and rules related to delayed, damaged or lost luggage.
Montreal Convention: Compensation for baggage
In the unfortunate event that your baggage arrives late, is damaged or is never to be seen again, you have a right to compensation under the Montreal Convention. The amount of compensation you can receive in these cases is a maximum limit of 1 131 SDRs, or Special Drawing Rights. This is an artificial currency created by the International Monetary Fund. The use of SDRs allows for conversion into local currencies, as the Convention applies worldwide. As with standard currencies, SDRs are subject to fluctuations of the financial market. For this reason, the maximum amounts for liability are reviewed every five years and since 1999, when the Montreal Convention was first drawn up, this limit has grown from 1000 SDRs to 1 131 SDRs. As of May 2019, 1 SDR equals 1.24 € and 1 131 SDRs equals approximately 1 500 €.
This amount, which must be paid by the airline, is to cover:
- In the case of delayed baggage, the costs for emergency purchases, such as underwear and toiletries, but only those purchases made when the baggage had not yet arrived.
- When baggage is damaged, repair or replacement of the bag’s value or its contents when damaged.
- If baggage is lost, reimbursement of the costs of emergency purchases, as well as the current value of the bag and its contents.
It is highly recommended to insure any particularly valuable baggage and contents before travelling, in order to protect yourself in the event you experience any disruptions while travelling. If you do so, the maximum liability limit can be increased; however, a statement must be completed, and a surcharge paid.
Check your baggage compensation claim
We are currently building our compensation calculator, which will allow you to immediately check your claim for compensation, whatever baggage issue has occurred during your journey, by simply adding your flight number and date. This service will be free of charge. Should you then decide to assign us to process your claim, you will easily be able to do so through our website. Any further queries can be answered by contacting MYFLYRIGHT. Leave your email address and we will inform you as soon our luggage service goes live.
Air passenger rights under the Montreal Convention
When the Montreal Convention can be applied is dependent on the following factors:
- Flight route - international flights between contracting states.
- Responsibility - for checked baggage, the airline is liable for any damage incurred while baggage is under its care and for hand luggage it must be proven the airline is to blame.
- Deadlines - the claim for compensation can only be accepted if it is made within the timeframes as set out in the Convention.
Montreal Convention: Countries where it applies
The Montreal Convention is an agreement that has worldwide validity and has been ratified by 136 states, including those in the European Union. For non-contracting states, the 1929 Warsaw Convention usually still applies.
A list of members of the Montreal Convention can be found here.
Montreal Convention for international travel
The Montreal Convention applies to any international carriage between contracting states, of passengers, baggage or goods. Transport between two places within the same country is not protected by the agreement, except for domestic flights within the EU, which are covered thanks to the implementation of the Montreal Convention with EU Regulation 889 / 2002. Additionally, flights which have a departure and arrival point in the same contracting state, which have a stopover in another state, are covered, regardless whether the stopover is in a contracting state or not.
Below are some examples to outline this more clearly:
- A flight from Germany to Spain is covered by the Convention, as both are contracting states.
- A domestic flight within Brazil from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro is not covered, as the Convention applies only to international flights. The same route would be valid instead in case of a stopover in another country (whether it would be contracting state or not)
- A flight within Germany from Hamburg to Munich without a layover in a foreign country is covered though due to the applicable exception in the European Union.
The following table further illustrates flight routes where the Montreal Convention applies.
Damaged baggage: Who is liable?
The Montreal Convention is applicable to both checked and unchecked baggage. The aircraft must compensate for any damage to baggage while it is under its care. However, where the damage is due to the nature of the baggage itself, or there was an already existing defect, the airline cannot be held responsible. For example, if you pack fragile glasses in a suitcase designed only for soft luggage, you will not be compensated by the airline. In order to prove any damage was incurred during transit or while under the care of the airline, it is a good idea to take a photo of your luggage prior to checking in. You will therefore have evidence that your bag was not damaged before this point.
There are also limitations for liability when it comes to hand luggage and personal items. For these, the airline can only be held responsible if the damage was caused by the airline or its employees.
The following table gives you an overview of the cases in which the airline is liable for baggage damage:
Airline carries responsibility
Airline carries no responsibility
Montreal Convention: Baggage claim deadline
When your luggage is damaged or has not arrived at your destination, you must go immediately to the complaints desk at the airport. You will need to present your baggage tag, which you will have received during the check-in process and fill in a claim form, officially known as the Property Irregularity Report (PIR). It is important to keep your copy of the PIR safe as it is a key piece of evidence. With this form, you will be given a transaction number, with which you can track your baggage using the worldwide electronic baggage tracking system.
Compliance with deadlines is a determining factor when claiming for compensation. Please note that these time limits outlined in the Montreal Convention are calendar, not working, days.
Below are the deadlines in which you must report your baggage issue in writing, according to the Convention:
- Damaged baggage – a written report must be sent within 7 days of receiving baggage.
- Delayed baggage – passengers must send a report in writing within 21 days of baggage receipt.
- Lost baggage – officially considered lost after 21 days. After this, passengers have 2 years to send a written report.
The table below gives an overview of the deadlines.
Once you miss these deadlines, you no longer have the right to compensation from the airline. The exception to this is only when the airline has acted with ill intent or was deliberately negligent. This is, however, very difficult to prove and a rare exception.
Baggage compensation claim checklist
Before you enforce your rights and claim for any baggage issues, it is essential to gather all necessary documentation in order to ensure the most successful outcome. The more evidence you can provide, the more likely it is that you will receive the compensation you deserve.
Here is a checklist of all necessary information you should collect.
Costs of enforcing your baggage claim
You can of course enforce your claim for compensation independently. However, this can be a drawn-out and stressful process. In can take a few hours simply to compile all the documents needed to make your claim. In our experience, around 50% of all cases we receive are taken to court. This not only adds more time and strain; it can also be costly. For example, in Germany, when your case in court is unsuccessful, you must pay all court and legal fees.
The table below shows a court case in Germany, which was not successful, where two people have each claimed for compensation in the value of 400 €:
The services of MYFLYRIGHT may be a better option to reduce the stress, time and costs involved when claiming for compensation.
However, if you still want to try to claim on your own, the following tips and information will be of use.
Lost, damaged or delayed baggage letter template
In order to make it easier for you to claim independently, we have created a letter template, which you can download here:
The following steps should be followed:
Step 1: You have filled out the PIR at the airport and have your own copy. After this, according to the deadlines appropriate to your case, you must inform the airline in writing that you wish to claim for compensation. You can either write the letter yourself or use our letter template. If you choose to use the template, there is the option of filling it in online and emailing it, or printing it out, then filling it in and mailing it. Remember to include all necessary documents and receipts – when emailing, you can scan these. If you choose to mail your letter, it is advisable to opt for registered post to have a record of when it was received by the airline. This can be used as evidence against the airline in the event the case goes to court in the future.
The following should be included in the letter:
You should set a deadline for the payment of compensation when sending the letter. The recommended timeframe is 2-3 weeks. If the airline does not respond within your deadline, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2. You now have a few options. You can either have MYFLYRIGHT pursue the claim for you, enlist the help of legal services and file a lawsuit or give the airline a chance to respond again with a second letter. If you opt for sending another letter, remember to set a deadline – again, 2-3 weeks – and, if mailing, select registered post. If there is still no response from the airline after your second letter, move on to Step 3.
Step 3. When the airline does not respond to your second letter, it is time to pursue your claim in court. When airlines are confronted with a lawsuit, they can no longer avoid your case.
It is important to remember at this point that in certain countries, you will be responsible for all legal fees if your court case is dismissed. You as the plaintiff can choose the court location. All court procedures can only take place in one of the Montreal Convention member states.
You have the choice between the following:
- Court location can be where the airline is headquartered
- Court location can be the arrival city of the flight
MYFLYRIGHT can pursue your case from start to finish, saving you time, effort and money. By using our services, any financial risk is avoided and only in the event of success is a 25 % commission plus VAT charged. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%.
How much is your compensation?