Q. We flew on Airtran to the Bahamas, and our bag was lost for a few days. Although we were reunited with it, we were surprised to learn that, if it had been lost forever, a different set of rules would apply for compensation because it was an international flight. For domestic flights, the maximum liability would have been $3300, but it would just be pennies for international flights. Does this apply to all airlines?
A. A lot depends on the originating country of the flight in a case such as this, since certain jurisdictions, such as the European Community, might have different compensation rules than others.
Many countries and thus airlines follow a set of rules called the Warsaw Convention, which limits liability for loss or damage to luggage at $9.07 per pound ($20.00 per kilo) for checked baggage with a maximum of $640, and $400 per passenger for unchecked baggage, unless a higher value is declared in advance and additional charges are paid. Some travel, however, may be governed by the newer "Montreal Convention," which stipulates higher liability limits for international flights (but it's still less than domestic liability). That’s why it’s so important to buy excess valuation coverage when checking bags on an international flight. Ask about this coverage when you hand over your luggage at the airport. It's surprisingly inexpensive, ranging from 50 cents to one or two dollars per $100 of coverage.