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Here’s What Airlines Will Compensate You for Lost Luggage

There’s one thing that all airlines appear to agree on: reimbursement for lost baggage. Because there are laws.

From Frontier Airlines to American Airlines, passengers are able to claim up to $3,500 for checked baggage. This amount is governed by the Department of Transportation, so it’s a pretty set thing. And definitely worth thinking about this before loading up several k worth of gear into a checked bag.

For international flights, it gets a little more complicated. The maximum amount passengers can claim for lost baggage on international flights is 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), or roughly $1,586.39 USD in layman’s terms. SDRs are an artificial “currency” created by the IMF, and these even have their own exchange rates. 1

It is all based on the 1999 Montreal Convention, which governs many airlines’ international travel policies. It covers passenger rights like damage to luggage or lost luggage compensation. (The treaty also states air carriers are liable for the injury and death of passengers.)

So far, 126 countries have ratified the Montreal Convention, meaning that for many international trips, it is the law that will apply. For other countries, the Warsaw Convention applies, which states the compensation rate as $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags.

Please note, that for many airlines, some items placed in checked baggage are not covered, like fragile items or jewelry, or may require proof of purchase.

But if you didn’t read any of the above, here’s a quick chart:

Airline Domestic International
Alaska $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
American $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
Delta $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
Frontier $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
Hawaiian $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
JetBlue $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
Southwest $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
United $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags
Virgin America $3,500 1,131 SDRs, $9.07/lb for checked bags and $400 per passenger for unchecked bags

1 footnote

  1. Though SDRs seem like a currency themselves—they’re not. The value of SDRs is based on a basket of different currencies, including the USD, EUR, CNY, JPY and GBP.





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