Damaged Baggage: Step by Step Guide

Inspect your baggage

  • As soon as you take it off the carousel, inspect your baggage.

Document any and all damage to your baggage

  • Take photos.
  • Record a video with your phone.

Report the damage at the airport

  • Complete a “Baggage / Property Irregularity Report” with the airline.
  • If you are unable to do so, then document why:
    • record (audio / video) the baggage agent refusing to take your report, or
    • take a photo of the abandoned baggage agent desk.

Deadline and Form of Complaint

  • You must complain in writing to the airline about damage to your checked baggage within 7 days of getting it.
    • Complaint in writing means: email, fax, or registered mail.
    • Keep all records about the transmission and delivery of your written complaint.

To whom to Complain

  • The complaint must be sent to one or both of the following airlines:
    • the airline that checked in your baggage (“first carrier”), and
    • the last airline that handled your baggage (“last carrier”).

Content of the Complaint

  • Your written complaint should contain sufficient information to allow the airline to identify you and your bag:
    • Your name, mailing address, and email address.
    • Details of your travel: date(s), airline(s) involved, and flight number(s).
    • Baggage tag number(s).
    • If the contents of your baggage have also been damaged, then include a description.
  • Keep your complaint simple and factual. Do not use qualifiers and refrain from expressing emotions (e.g., “horrible” or “You ruined my trip,” etc.).
  • Include documents supporting your complaint:
    • Copy or scan of your Baggage Irregularity Report, if you filed one at the airport, or evidence of your being unable to do so.
    • Copy or scan of your itinerary, boarding passes, and baggage identification tags (if available).
    • Photos and/or videos of the damage to your baggage.
  • Never send original documents to the airline.


  • You may choose between:
    • Arranging for repair or replacement of your damaged baggage on your own, and then claiming all costs incurred from the airline, or
    • Using the airline’s own repair services, if available.
  • The choice is yours, and you have no obligation to use the airline’s repair services.


  • If the damage to your baggage or its contents cannot be reasonably repaired:
    • Get an opinion in writing from a recognized repair shop (including the value of the bag or the item),
    • Purchase a similar or equivalent bag or item, and
    • Claim all your costs from the airline.

Content of Letter of Demand

  • Send a letter of demand requesting that the airline reimburse you for the expenses you have incurred, and remit payment within 30 days.
  • Attach to your letter:
    • A table containing the date, description, and amount of all your expenses.
    • Copies or scans of all receipts supporting the expenses in the table.
    • An affidavit or witnessed declaration supporting the expenses in the table for which no receipt is available.
  • Never send original receipts to the airline.

Liability Limits

  • The airline is liable for your expenses caused by damage to your baggage up to a certain amount:
    • CAD$2,300 (approx.) on itineraries within Canada and international itineries, including to the US; and
    • US$3,800 on domestic itineraries within the US.
  • You can claim more than these amounts if you can prove that the damage was a result of willful misconduct of the airline and/or its agents.
  • If your baggage is damaged, the airline must also refund the baggage fee.

Deadline for Commencing Legal Action

  • If the airline refuses or ignores your claim, then you need to enforce your rights by commencing a legal action within 2 years of your flight.
  • If you miss this deadline, you lose your right to compensation.

Where and How to Commence Legal Action

  • You may choose between numerous venues for suing the airline, including:
    • The province where you purchased the ticket.
    • The province where the final destination on the ticket is located.
    • The province where the airline has its principal place of business.
  • You should file a claim in the small claims court of the province of your choice. The required forms and the court procedures may vary from province to province.

Preparing Your Small Claim