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We have returned from Russia 4 days ago (Moscow-St.Petersburg-Prague).

After we've arrived to Prague, we learned that our luggage didn't come in our airplane and was lost.

Today we've received information from our airline company (CSA Czech Airlines), that our luggage was stopped by customs for clearance (though they didn't tell us about that, when we were getting into plane). So now they propose us to buy another ticket at our own expenses to St. Petersburg to come and take our luggage, because they are not responsible for what customs do, they say.

They also refuse to give us a compensation so we could buy some basic stuff (because we have permanent residence in Czech Republic).

Who is responsible for this situation?

  • Aeroflot airlines (who took the luggage)?
  • CSA airlines (who didn't bring the luggage)?
  • Airport in St. Petersburg who holds the luggage at that moment?

Is it really true, that if customs stops the luggage we should go for it at our own expenses?

Is there any international laws that says, that it is our right to receive compensation for buying temporary basic stuff that we need?

  • 5
    Check your "Contract of Carriage". Quite aside from questions of reimbursement for delay, in the simplest case it should still show that they are under contract for delivering your properly checked luggage to the final destination shown on your ticket. In that case they are responsible for arranging to have the luggage loaded on a future flight and delivered to Prague. There's probably no requirement for them to bring it to your door. If you had multiple individually purchased tickets or the luggage didn't meet the rules for checked luggage you may have a problem. – Ben Voigt Sep 3 '14 at 17:01
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    Some countries require the owner to be around when the case is opened/checked. Perhaps customs wants to arrest the owner of the case for evasion of customs duty. Then the airline plainly can't put the case into the next airplane, because they can't get the case back from customs without the owner around. – Alexander Sep 5 '14 at 10:02
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    update: nobody wants to arrest me :), we've found out, that it was a mistake of Aeroflot employee, who registered our bags to come to Prague, though there is a law in Russia, that you can't send the baggage directly out of Russia(or CIS) if you have transit flight. So, in Russia, we had to get our luggage at St. Petersburg and then drop it at counter again. Nobody told us, and the guy, who registered our bag said, that it's all right and that we'll get our bags in Prague, but it wasn't true. – Buzz Sep 8 '14 at 8:09
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The most important thing in this situation is to get documentation about your luggage as soon as possible. No matter what the airline says, the only thing that matters is what they write. As this issue might be continued within the legal system (lawyers, etc) you should start gathering documents you can show to the judge.

As I see it, the most important questions are:

  1. Which airline got the message about your luggage from customs, and when did they get it?
  2. Why didn't they inform you about the issue?
  3. According to the rules of your flight, who takes responsibility in these cases?

After getting this information from your airline, you should consult with a lawyer. Even if customs stopped your luggage, they must inform the airline about it - so you need to find where the communication stopped.

It may be that your airline will blame the local transporters (the Airflot company or even Pulkovo's staff). In that case, you would need to get written documents from your airline, and perhaps sue the responsible company.

The laws about these requests say that the Russian company must give an answer in 30 days, so you should start this as soon as possible. If you decide to sue some Russian company, please be aware that financial compensation for moral damages are less than the material damage you incurred. So if you don't have documentation of your financial losses, you will spend a bunch of money for nothing.

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    A friend of mine had her luggage lost in Russia. She sued the airline and the airport and got about $500 for the luggage and $500 for moral compensation. – Anixx Sep 3 '14 at 23:24
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    @Anixx ...but was that lost luggage or luggage stopped by customs? – CGCampbell Sep 4 '14 at 13:04
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    @CGCampbell formally in this case i would go for the luggage by myself, and then sue the airline or the customs (as the court will decide) for the tickets i bought, lost workdays and moral compensation. – Anixx Sep 4 '14 at 13:10
  • As I understand it, CSA are members of IATA. As a memeber of IATA they must abide by the Montreal Convention. This means the carrier has sole responsibility for the baggage once you check it in regardless of who detained it, etc. If CSA are not playing ball it could be worth contacting IATA directly to try and mediate/offer advise. – Liam Oct 23 '14 at 13:53
  • Oh...problem is Russia hasn't signed the montreal convention...iata.org/policy/Pages/mc99.aspx – Liam Oct 23 '14 at 13:59
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No laws as such, but check with your travel insurance or your flight/holiday booker. If they are a part of ABTA, you should find the process relatively painless.

Responsibility is a tricky thing - most will blame customs, who are separate from the 3 organisations you have named.

I always use airlines that will reimburse my incidentals until my luggage arrives, and will deliver the luggage to my hotel or home. Just be sure to buy what you need and keep all receipts.

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    And which airlines are these? I wouldn't trust any airline these days. – Grzenio Sep 3 '14 at 8:57
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    Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have always sorted me out rapidly. Emirates was good too. – Rory Alsop Sep 3 '14 at 10:34
  • I have had good help from Air New Zealand (international and domestic) in New Zealand. All times we got our luggage within 48 hours at home/hotel. – Ton Plomp Sep 4 '14 at 2:39
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    @Ton Plomp So they've regulary lost your luggage? – VMAtm Sep 4 '14 at 12:51
  • @vmatm air nz once (over size carry on) others were lost in Londen Heathrow – Ton Plomp Sep 4 '14 at 18:52
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If you paid for the trip by credit card, check with them too. At least one of my cards offers free travel insurance, which may cover your (documented) loss. If they reimburse you, they have an incentive to go after the airline -- and they have more clout than you do.

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    again...the luggage was not lost, it was stopped by customs... the airline was required to turn it over – CGCampbell Sep 4 '14 at 13:06
  • Check the travel insurance anyway. – keshlam Sep 4 '14 at 21:23

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