What UAE residents are entitled to in case their bags are damaged or can no longer be retrieved for some reason
Dubai: Nothing spoils a great holiday like lost or missing baggage. As regular globe-trotters, many UAE residents have had their share of having their suitcase delayed, misplaced or even damaged. Just recently, passengers hit by a major operational snag at Dubai International following a landing mishap involving an Emirates flight were unable to retrieve their bags.
If your luggage is a no-show at the carousel or has been damaged or lost for some reason, it pays to know your rights. According to the legal experts, flyers from Dubai or UAE are entitled to make a financial claim pursuant to international and local laws if their belongings don’t show up.
Barney Almazar, Gulf Law director, said that passengers who are unable to take back their belongings are well protected by the provisions specified in the Warsaw Convention and Montreal Convention that govern international airlines.
“Airlines, being a common or public carrier, have the obligation to transport people and goods safely. Thus it is their duty to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence. They will be liable for all matters against which human prudence and foresight might guard,” Barney told Gulf News.
Missing luggage is a common inconvenience among international passengers. In 2014 alone, there were about 4 or 3.6 bags delayed, missing or lost for every 1,000 passengers taking American carriers. The incidence of mishandled baggage increased from a year earlier, with a little over 1,600 customer complaints received in 2014 alone, according to the Airline Quality Rating 2015 report.
Passengers’ rights over their personal belongings may vary depending on the points of origin and destination of the flight. But in general terms, airlines liable for lost baggage have the duty to pay up to Dh6,400, which is the local currency equivalent of the so-called 1,131 special drawing rights, a mix of currency values set by the International Monetary Fund.
According to Jonathan Brown, partner, head of maritime, transport and trade at Hadef Partners, passengers are entitled to a higher amount of compensation if they declared a higher value to their checked-in luggage prior to boarding and paid any additional fees for said higher value.
Those who have signed up for a travel insurance may be entitled to other benefits, depending on the type of policy, but a notification must be sent to the insurer to make a financial claim.
“In any case, under law, passengers must provide written notice to the airline within seven days of the incident and have two years to file any court proceedings should they be necessary,” added Brown.
However, it is important to bear in mind the timeframe within which a passenger must take action. For damaged items, the airline must be notified with seven days, and for delayed bags, within 21 days.
What should be done
Whether the bag has been damaged, delayed, lost or destroyed, the passenger is advised to write and complain to the airline as soon as possible.
“In the case of damage to checked baggage, the passenger must write and complain within seven days, and in the case of delay within 21 days, in both cases from the date on which the baggage was placed at the passenger’s disposal,” said Barney. He also noted that after 21 days, any delayed baggage is considered lost, even if the airline delivers it afterwards.
For those who decide to seek a compensation, claims should be supported by a list and description of the missing items, as well as the baggage check and identification tags, to fast track the process.
“Proof of ownership and receipts will also speed up the process, so it is advisable to have these documents ready,” said Barney.
“Note as well that a carrier is only responsible for a particular leg. If you are traveling on multiple carriers, you will need to claim against the specific carrier responsible,” he added.
When is it advisable to contact a lawyer?
Should the passenger decide to file a legal complaint, it should be done within two years from the date of arrival of the aircraft, or from the date on which the plane was scheduled to land.
“Affected passengers should coordinate with the airline to resolve the matter amicably. If the issue is not settled, a claim before the courts can be made within two years from the date of arrival of the aircraft, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived,” said Barney.
“Depending on the circumstances, the passenger may file his complaint in the place of his residence, domicile of the airline, point of origin or destination.”
For other related issues like flight delays and cancellations, know more about the rights of passengers here.