What happens when your luggage gets damaged on a flight? It’s a question we get asked reasonably regularly.
It’s particularly relevant now because on most flights you pay extra to take luggage.
If you’re paying for the privilege, you should expect that if the airline damages your bag, they will put it right!
A consumer member tested this when he retrieved his case from luggage claim after a flight from Christchurch to Hamilton. He discovered the wheel on one corner of the case had been ripped off. The bag had only been used three times. As he said, it would have “taken a great deal of force” to do the damage.
At the airport, Air New Zealand was courteous, but told him the airline did not accept liability for damaged handles or wheels. He later phoned and got the same story. So he contacted us.
Passengers’ rights when baggage is lost or damaged on a domestic flight are set out in the Carriage of Goods Act.
It provides the airline is liable for damage to your bags up to $1500, unless you come to a separate arrangement with it. There is an escape clause if the airline can show damage to your luggage resulted from an “inherent vice” – that is, your bag was poorly designed or of poor quality. But we don’t think this allows an airline to refuse all claims relating to damaged handles or wheels.
We told our member to write to the airline detailing the bag’s age and condition, as well as the damage done. He also asked for it to pay for the repairs.
The airline responded the next day, offering him a new bag. He happily accepted.
However, he was told by the airline the original advice given to him was correct. When we contacted Air New Zealand, it said it didn’t have a policy of refusing such claims. Each was treated on its merits. So if the wheels fall off for you, don’t give up!
By Sue Chetwin, CEO Consumer NZ.