Which international legal document spells out the procedure that a carrier should follow when a checked passenger is late to board a flight?

I have been refused to board a connecting flight and my baggage was not off-loaded.

  • 9
    I don't believe such a thing exists: each airline, airport and jurisdiction has their own procedures to follow. If you can narrow those down, perhaps we can work out what should have happened. Nov 29, 2018 at 12:10
  • Possibly related: the most popular answer to travel.stackexchange.com/questions/61949/…
    – B.Liu
    Nov 29, 2018 at 12:11
  • Having your luggage transported to the final destination without you is a far smaller headache than trying to off-load your luggage from a plane and delaying everyone else's schedule.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:30
  • 2
    Why do you think there should be an international legal document? Nov 29, 2018 at 20:54
  • Is your concern about the inconvenience of being without your luggage, or cost of getting it back, or the security risk of having unaccompanied baggage on a plane? Each may be affected by different rules (though as mentioned there is unlikely to be a single international rule that applies universally). Nov 29, 2018 at 21:54

5 Answers 5


There is no such thing as far as I know but it is hard prove a negative. Searching online, which I'm sure you have already done, does not seem to find such document. There is a regulation called Passenger Positive Bombing (PPBM) that which is well described in this answer but surprisingly hard to find the official document online.

These things depend on both country and local policies. I have seen cases when the baggage is off-loaded but not always and much less so in the last 10+ years. This could be because there is greater confidence in screening. A particular country can have more strict requirements which would dictate if the flight is allowed to take off with the baggage still on board.

Generally, and there is no official basis for this, airlines tend to be more forgiving with things when they are out of a passenger's control than otherwise. If you missed a connection because they were late, your luggage might be there already and they often do not off-load it. If you drop luggage off at baggage drop and don't show for a flight an hour or so later, there is greater cause for concern, so they are more likely to off-load.

  • There are some rules around baggage offloading. European flights (i.e. those to or from Europe) mandate that bags are offloaded for passengers that don't board. Because Lockerbie. aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/55805/… Nov 29, 2018 at 16:42
  • Good find. Edited.
    – Itai
    Nov 30, 2018 at 20:09
  • @Itai That's not correct in EU since 2002. See my answer for the actual regulation, which sets out the complete requirements.
    – user71659
    Nov 30, 2018 at 20:13

There is no "international legal document" governing such cases. The document that governs what happens when you're late for a flight is the airline's Contract of Carriage. These typically require you to be present at the gate and ready to board at least 10 or 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure, though it may be more for international flights. Should you miss the flight, the contract of carriage typically specifies that you are considered a no-show and your ticket is forfeited, including any later flights on the same ticket. Airlines may reaccommodate you without charge as a courtesy, but they're typically under no obligation to do so. But, again, this would vary based on the CoC.

Positive Passenger Bag Matching (PPBM) laws in some countries may require your bag to be removed if you miss the flight for a reason under your own control, but these laws vary by country. Some countries (such as the USA) have no PPBM requirements, since all checked luggage is screened for explosives before it is allowed to be loaded on any aircraft.

In order to answer why PPBM didn't apply to your flight, you'd need to ask a new question and include the origin and destination of your missed flight. Mentioning the airline would also be helpful in determining what rights you may or may not have, since every airline has its own contract of carriage.

  • 1
    To be precise the US requires either PPBM or screening with explosives detection systems or manual/dog search. There are commercial advantages to the airlines for avoiding PPBM. 49 USC 44901 refers.
    – user71659
    Nov 29, 2018 at 23:06

There is no international law. Every country might have its regulations or laws, and they might have strong similarities, but there is no overall organization that could make any international law.

For understanding your situation, consider why the luggage offloading rule exists: A passenger should not be able to get (potentially dangerous) luggage onto a flight if he is not himself on the flight - this assumes that most terrorists would prefer to survive their attack by not flying on the plane with their bomb.
If a passenger is not on a flight for reasons clearly out of his control, the offloading can be skipped - it would be quite disruptive for the schedule, and he could not intentionally have produced the situation.


Sorry, there is no such thing. And related rules and precedent you may find will heavy favor the airline. Some examples can be found at IATA - Baggage Standards.

Based on the question, you were late so the responsibility is solely on you.

Presumably, the connecting flight was domestic where bag match rules have more exceptions, though airlines will most often pull bags.


There is definitely an international standard, though it is vague:

ICAO Annex 17

4.5.3 Each Contracting State shall ensure that commercial air transport operators do not transport the baggage of persons who are not on board the aircraft unless that baggage is identified as unaccompanied and subjected to appropriate screening.

If this was the United States, 49 USC 44901 says that you either need to scan with approved explosives detection systems OR manual/dog inspection OR offload baggage (PPBM). The former 2 options would be "appropriate screening" as ICAO says.

The EU is similar:

EU EC 2320/2002

5.2.2 Unaccompanied Hold Baggage. All items of unaccompanied baggage, both originating and transfer hold baggage, shall be screened by one of the following methods, before being loaded onto an aircraft:

(a) EDS; or

(b) a multi-level PEDS, where at Level 2 the images of all bags are viewed by the operators; or

(c) conventional x-ray equipment with each bag being viewed from two different angles by the same operator at the same screening point; or

(d) hand search supplemented by the application of Trace Detection Equipment on open pieces of baggage,

unless the unaccompanied baggage, which has been previously screened to the standard detailed in this Annex, has been separated due to factors beyond the passenger's control, and the unaccompanied baggage has been within the care of the air carrier.

  • Note that ICAO SARPs are not "legal documents." They're more suggestions than requirements. They carry no legal force unless some nation's civil aviation authority's regulations defers to them.
    – reirab
    Nov 29, 2018 at 23:34
  • @reirab Not exactly. A standard is "to which Contracting States will conform in accordance with the Convention; in the event of impossibility of compliance, notification to the Council is compulsory under Article 38 of the Convention." It has the force of any international treaty. This is a standard, note the word "shall".
    – user71659
    Nov 30, 2018 at 2:30
  • SARPs aren't part of the Chicago Convention and don't carry force of treaty (or any other legal force, unless incorporated by reference in a nation's laws and/or regulations.) See the Wiki for ICAO SARPs. "SARPs do not have the same legal binding force as the Convention itself, because Annexes are not international treaties."
    – reirab
    Nov 30, 2018 at 5:12
  • @reirab Incorrect. Read the actual Chicago Convention, article 38. Standards are binding unless a State notifies ICAO, and publishes departures, usually as part of the AIP. This is important for the safety of flight. Regardless, all of the previous answers that there are no international standards for unaccompanied baggage are incorrect, both in and outside the EU.
    – user71659
    Nov 30, 2018 at 5:17
  • SARPs are never binding. However, you are correct that countries do publish the differences between their laws/regulations and SARPs. There is no legal consequence for violating ICAO SARPs in any nation unless that nation's laws or regulations make it so. (Also, you will note that that list of SARPs departures is really long.)
    – reirab
    Nov 30, 2018 at 5:19

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