Passengers are not being fairly compensated, a report says
Some of the biggest no-frills airlines, such as Ryanair and Easyjet, are the slowest to pay up when they lose or damage baggage, a report has said.
The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) study said passengers were not being fairly compensated for lost luggage.
AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said: "Airlines are still too quick to load the risk onto the passenger."
Airlines around the world 'mishandled' 42 million bags in 2007 and irretrievably lost more than a million.
The AUC report said that airlines were too often acting like insurance companies, instead of paying for lost baggage.
Some airlines were trying to improve baggage handling but passengers were not being fairly compensated, it said.
Ryanair "often limits passengers to £15 whatever the length of the bag delay"
Jet2 airline "refuses to reimburse passengers for claims under £30"
A passenger claimed £1,120 for a lost bag, but had no receipts. The airline paid £79.34
A claim for a surfboard crushed during a flight totalled £768.99. The passenger was offered £66.95 because he had no receipt and the board was three years old
From cases cited in the AUC report
Carriers like Easyjet and Ryanair, with their simple point-to-point networks, were less likely to mislay baggage - but once lost, their passengers found it harder to get compensation.
Complaints showed travellers were sometimes asked for receipts for each item of lost luggage, the AUC said.
In other cases, airlines were taking into account the depreciating value of items.
The report added that the problem was the worst it had been in recent years.
Ms Tietjen said: "If something goes wrong, airlines should be prepared to compensate their passengers fairly.
"Complaints to the AUC show that passengers often struggle to get reasonable redress from airlines after the event."
Even with delayed baggage, passengers could be left out of pocket, she added: "Airlines will not reimburse them fully for expenses they incurred buying essential items whilst they are without their bag."
Ms Tietjen commended the efforts of airlines to improve their baggage handling performance, but said they also needed to turn their attention to what happens when things go wrong.
Figures published in the AUC report showed 42 million bags were mishandled in 2007 compared with 34 million in 2006 and 30 million in 2005.
The AUC said that, with the number of air travellers expected to double in the next decade, airlines could be mishandling as many as 70 million bags a year by 2019.