Warsaw Convention: How It Affects Your Rights for Baggage Compensation
What are your international passenger rights
Every day approximately 400 flights1 travel between the U.S. and Europe, with countless other flights traveling between countries around the globe. With all this cross-border travel, have you ever wondered about your rights as an airline passenger?
Many countries have ratified the Montreal Convention that protects passenger rights during air travel, but some other countries that have not. In this case, your passenger rights are covered under the Warsaw Convention.
But how does this affect you if you have delayed, damaged, or lost baggage? Keep reading to find how much you could be compensated for baggage mishandling under the Warsaw Convention.
- According to the rules of the Warsaw Convention, you can be compensated up to 19 SDR per kilogram for damaged, delayed, or lost checked baggage.
- Under the Warsaw Convention, time limits for filing claims are shorter and the amount of compensation is lower than with the Montreal Convention.
- The Warsaw Convention was replaced by the Montreal Convention for countries that chose to ratify it2.
What is the Warsaw Convention of 1929
Formed in 1929, the Warsaw Convention3 is an international treaty that establishes and regulates airline liability for you as an individual as well as your baggage. To date, 152 countries have ratified the Warsaw Convention.
The treaty was formed during a time when commercial aviation was in its infancy, and airlines hadn’t established any uniform laws to govern their liability to passengers. As the airline industry grew, private carriers were concerned about how much they would have to pay passengers if there were an accident.
The Warsaw Convention was amended in 1955 and again in 1999 for what is now known as the Montreal Convention. The Montreal Convention now takes the place of the Warsaw Convention for the countries that ratified it.
The goal of the Warsaw Convention was to create a set of international laws that would:
- Create specific requirements for airlines to provide tickets, baggage checks, and other travel-related documents
- Establish claims procedures and a 2 year limitation period for submitting claims
- Establish and limit airline liability for damage, injury, loss, and death caused by an accident during international flights
Warsaw Convention Liability Limits
Under the rules of the Warsaw Convention, airlines are only required to compensate passengers up to a certain amount for injury and damage.
Warsaw Convention Liability Limits4
16,600 (SDR) or $22,181.31
Checked Baggage Mishandling
19 SDR ($20 USD) per kilogram
332 SDR or $443.59 USD
So, if your checked baggage was lost or damaged, and you were traveling to a country that has ratified the Warsaw convention alone, then you would only be compensated up to roughly $20 per kilogram for your loss.
If your bag weighed 35 lbs then, under the Warsaw Convention, you could only hope to get up to $317.50 in compensation from the airline.
What are Special Drawing Rights
Set by the International Monetary Fund, Special Drawing Rights5 are a collection of different currencies like the Euro, US Dollar, the British Pound, and Japanese Yen. SDRs are not a currency but a monetary reserve currency that is reviewed every 5 years for inflation.
Differences Between the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions
In 1999, the Montreal Convention6 was formed but didn’t go into effect until 2003. This international treaty is a modernized and updated version of the Warsaw Convention 1929.
One of the biggest differences between the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions is the liability limit, which is much higher under the Montreal Convention.
Another key difference between the two treaties is seen in airlines’ defenses to claims.
With the Warsaw Convention, an airline can become exempt from liability if it can prove that it has:
- Taken every step available to avoid the damage or
- That it was impossible to prevent it (weather and political unrest)
- That the damage was caused or partly caused by the person affected
With the Montreal Convention, an airline’s defenses have been broadened to include the following exemptions:
- Defective packing
- Defects with baggage
- Inherent defects
- Quality of baggage
- War or armed conflict
- Unpredictable weather
The Warsaw Convention & Baggage Compensation
The Warsaw Convention states that airlines are responsible for damage to both passengers and baggage. If you plan to file a claim for baggage mishandling, you will need to do so within the following timeframes:
- Damaged Baggage: Within 7 days
- Delayed and Lost Baggage Claims: Within 14 days
Warsaw Convention 1929 Summary
Most international airline passengers will be flying to countries that have ratified the Montreal Convention, but if you’re flying to a country that hasn’t, then the rules of the Warsaw Convention would go into effect.
AirAdvisor’s team of legal experts have handled 230,000+ flight claims internationally over the last 7 years. You can rely on our expertise to advocate for consumer passengers' rights when dealing with airlines.
People Also Asked
If I’m only flying within the US, what laws protect my passenger rights?
For flights within the US on an airline based in the US, your rights are covered under rules established by Congress and the Department of Transportation.
What laws protect my passenger rights when traveling domestically in a European country?
Whether you’re traveling within one EU country or to several, your passenger rights are enforced through EU 261/2004.
- Lost, Delayed or Damaged Baggage Compensation in the US
- UK Baggage Compensation: How Much Can You Get
- Lost or Delayed Baggage Compensation in the EU