We’ve all experienced the sinking feeling when your luggage is last to appear on the carousel and breathed a sigh of relief when it does eventually make an appearance, but who you fly with has a bearing on whether you receive your suitcase intact or at all, a new report has shown.
Financial comparison firm Forbes Advisor has been crunching the number of complaints about lost, stolen or damaged baggage and found that Ryanair is the worst offender, followed by British Airways and easyJet in second and third place.
Although the figures do not take into account the number of passengers each airline carries, budget airline Ryanair received close to 1,000 luggage related complaints between 2018 and the third quarter of 2022, according to Forbes Advisor. And British Airways, the largest UK airline, was found to be the second worst when it came to luggage complaints, with 844 in the past five years, according to This In Money.
The findings analysed complaints figures from the airline regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and while the figures do not take into account the number of passengers each airline carries and the overall number of luggage complaints per passenger is low, making a CAA complaint is the last step a traveller can make if their airline does not help them.
Last year, Ryanair carried 27.5 million passengers and British Airways 33 million. However third place easyJet received fewer complaints even though it carried more than double the amount of passengers at 70 million in 2023. And Virgin Atlantic received a third of the number of complaints compared to easyjet, even though it carried a fraction of the amount of passengers at 4.15 million.
Kevin Pratt, travel insurance expert at Forbes Advisor, said: “While the number of complaints is relatively small relative to the thousands of flights these firms operate, we should remember that each one will have been a source of significant inconvenience to the traveller concerned – enough for them to escalate their complaint all the way to the Civil Aviation Authority.”
The 10 airlines that attracted the most baggage-related claims through UK airports in the past five years were:
1. Ryanair – 954 complaints
2. British Airways – 844 complaints
3. easyJet – 565 complaints
4. Wizz Air – 552 complaints
5. Norwegian – 419 complaints
6. Flybe – 297 complaints (ceased trading in January 2023)
7. Turkish Airlines – 195 complaints
8. Virgin Atlantic – 182 complaints
9. Tap Portugal – 160 complaints
10. Iberia – 105 complaints
Ryanair disputed the figures, with a spokesperson saying: “Ryanair operates over 3,200 daily flights across more than 230 destinations and leads the industry with fewest lost bags – one bag mishandled per almost 10,000 passengers. Any claims to the contrary are false, including this Forbes study which does not take into account the volume of passengers each airline carries.”
A spokesperson for British Airways said: ‘Every day we take great pride in carrying thousands of bags safely and speedily to their final destination where the vast majority arrive on time. When bags are delayed our teams do everything they can to reunite customers with their belongings and look at various methods of transportation to achieve this as quickly as possible. We also help with essentials while customers wait for their bags to arrive.’
An easyJet spokesperson said: “Between 2018 – 2022, the period covered by the study, easyJet transported around 322million customers and their baggage across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. As the figures confirm, incidents of delayed baggage are extremely low and reports by World Tracer, the independent system used by the industry for luggage tracking, show that easyJet has one of the best performances in the industry.”
Although the figures show the vast majority of travellers fly without any luggage problems, there are steps you can take to minimise the chances of it happening to you:
Before you go
- Before you pack, visit the airport or airline’s website to ensure that you’re up to date with current security restrictions. This means you won’t be caught out when you’re going through security or customs.
- Photograph and scan important documents such as passports, travel insurance policies and accommodation reservations, in case these are lost. And take photographs of valuable items such as jewellery.
- Do not put valuables in your checked-in luggage – you should put these items in your hand luggage.
- Remember to label your luggage with your name and contact details. If you’re concerned about security and unhappy about including personal information such as your address, then you should at least include your full name and mobile number.
- Remove old airline tags from previous trips as these can cause confusion when routing luggage.
Make sure you’re covered
You should make sure that you’ve got adequate travel insurance. By law, airlines only have to cover a specified minimum amount for your baggage so it’s important that your travel insurance covers for loss, damage or delay. Otherwise, you could be stranded on holiday with only the clothes you flew in to wear. Most policies will cover for your personal belongings, but you should take out separate or additional cover for any items that are of high value.
Your rights if your luggage is damaged, lost or delayed
Airlines are responsible for your losses when hold luggage is lost, delayed or damaged, according to the Civil Aviation Authority. However, there are no rules that fix the amount of compensation you should receive.
In addition, airlines may not cover the entire cost of replacing your items if anything does happen to your luggage. This means that taking out travel insurance that covers loss or damage may be a safer bet.
Here are the steps to take if you need to make a claim:
- The first thing you should do if your luggage has been lost is inform the airline and request a Property Irregularity Report. Your bags are considered lost after 21 days, but fill in a PIR form immediately.
- Once you’ve completed the PIR you then need to send this to your travel insurance provider.
- Unless you made a ‘special declaration of interest in the delivery of your luggage,’ the most an airline will pay you is £1,000. However, many airlines have separate policies and it is unlikely that you will get anywhere near this amount.
- If you need to claim for damage compensation then you should write to the airline within seven days of receiving your luggage. If your luggage has been delayed then you should write within 21 days from when you checked in your luggage.
- If your bag is stolen then you should report the incident to the local police and obtain a crime reference number.
- Make sure you keep any receipts for items that you buy as a result of losing your luggage as this will make the claiming process easier.
- If your claim is unsuccessful, you can then turn to the Civil Aviation Authority.