The Guardian: Vueling Refuses To Compensate Passengers More Than 50 EUR For Destroyed Suitcase Repair – But Can They Really?

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There was an interesting story in The Guardian newspaper yesterday about low cost carrier Vueling claiming to passengers that they’re only liable up to 50 EUR in case of baggage damage repairs.

The case which is being discussed in the article is about a passenger with an expensive Rimowa aluminum suitcase (worth about 1,100 EUR) and Vueling allegedly refused to pay any money after destroying the frame to the point of rending the bag useless.

Expensive suitcases are always a problem when being used as checked baggage as in case of loss or severe damages the owner isn’t properly covered as airlines are indeed limited in what they’re liable for, although the limit is much higher than what Vueling tries to make people believe.

You can access The Gurdian‘s article here to get a closer look on Vueling’s questionable practices.

A small London design company is facing a £900 bill after BA’s sister airline, Vueling, trashed their salesman’s expensive metal suitcase and then refused to reimburse the firm unless they took it to a shoe repair centre more than two hours from their office.

The Montreal Convention says airlines must compensate passengers if their luggage is damaged or lost up to the value of about £1,150.

However, Vueling has been telling customers the maximum it will pay out is €50 (£43).

… he arrived and retrieved his metal £900 Rimowa suitcase containing silk samples from the luggage return carousel. Its locks had been destroyed, it had been punctured, and according to a company spokeswoman, it “looked like someone had taken an axe to it”.

The airline has refused to refund the firm. It insisted they take the suitcase to a shoe repair service in Northwood, Middlesex, even though Vueling staff examined it at the time in Spain. There is no mention of this requirement in Vueling’s terms and conditions.

“We rang the repair firm who told us you have to bring the bag in and no matter the condition of the bag. If it cannot be repaired, they [Vueling] will give us a maximum of €50 as that’s their policy. It’s a four-hour round trip for us, so it’s not worth it if the most we’ll get back is £45. Vueling has refused to discuss the matter further, as have BA, even though the flight was booked on the BA website,” she says.

The airline, which requires passengers whose luggage is lost to call an expensive 0844 number, similarly refused to discuss the matter when asked by Guardian Money this week.

A picture of the suitcase concerned has been published and looks like it went through a war zone:

Vuelings website (access here) refers to regulating Baggage claims:

Vueling’s liability in regard to delays or damage to baggage is limited by our general terms and conditions as well as by the Montreal agreement.

The Conditions of Carriage (see here) outline clearly:

 

  • In the case of lost or damaged luggage, the rules established by national and international standards shall be applied, particularly the 1960 Air Traffic Act and the Montreal Convention of 28 May 1999, as well as Regulation (EC) No. 2027/97 of the European Council.
  • VUELING shall be liable in cases of destruction, loss, delay or damage to luggage, up to a sum of 1,131 Special Drawing Rights per passenger. A Passenger can benefit from a higher liability limit by making a special value declaration, for which they must pay a supplementary charge. As regards unchecked luggage, VUELING shall only be liable for damages caused by its fault.

So based on their own T&C Vueling is indeed liable for this passengers destroyed baggage to the full amount of 1,131 XDR which is a universal currency, translating to US$1,640 and there is absolutely no provision why a limitation should apply.

I’d advise the person affected to file an online claim with Vueling, submit receipts to proof age and value of the bag and then wait for regulation. If the airline doesn’t respond involve a regulator (in the UK Case they refer people to the CEDR in order to get disputes resolved).

Conclusion

I think the article got it wrong and the 50 EUR is a limitation that only applies to their contracted repair shop and if the bag is found to be a lost cause then passengers need to file a claim with Vueling, requesting a replacement or the time value of the suitcase as compensation (receipts required). The airline (if flying under a flag whose country is signatory of the Montreal Convention) is in any case required to regulate the baggage claim up to the maximum value of 1131 XDR if value can be proven.

Dealing with Vueling and other such low cost airlines can be a pain, in fact dealing with most airlines is a pain when it comes to chasing compensation. Vueling has been in hot water repeatedly for staffing shortages and also failure to pay out due EC261/2004 compensation (see our article here). I’m not at all surprised that Vueling tries to confuse people and be very vague, even try to avoid communicating with customers to inform them properly about their rights.

 

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