Airplane luggage: restrictions and problems

As a security measure, not all items are allowed in your luggage when travelling by plane, there are many restrictions. As the rules of transport, size, and weight of luggage often differ from one airline to another, you should always consult transport general conditions of your company. In case of delay, damage or luggage loss during air travel, the Montreal Convention provides refunds but these must be requested within strict time limits.

Prohibited items in the hold as well as in the cabin

In the hold as well as in the cabin, it is strictly prohibited to place in your luggage any blunt or sharp item, any dangerous substance or hazardous material. Any such item will be removed during security checks and may be destroyed without compensation. Avoid accessories that imitate weapons shape (belt shaped like a cartridge belt, lighter shaped like a grenade etc…).

→ Check if your product is prohibited in the cabin as well as in the hold.

To find out which products are prohibited from entering certain territories (food and equipment), check with the consular services or the tourist office of the country(ies) of destination.

What to avoid putting in your hold luggage?

It may be better to place in your checked-in baggage:

  • Electronic items (photo cameras, Smartphone, camera…),
  • Glass or fragile objects (sunglasses)
  • Precious objects (jewelry)
  • Indispensable items (important medicines, wedding dress…).

In the event of loss or damage, you will not be refund. Indeed airlines generally exclude of their responsibilities these types of items that would have been placed in checked-in baggage. Consult general conditions of your carrier and especially the paragraph concerning the objects excluded from its responsibility.

If you want still to carry these items in your checked-in baggage, you can make a prior declaration with the airline. This declaration generate the payment of an extra charge, but will cover the transport of these items and allow a compensation in case of a problem during the trip.

Electronic cigarette is also forbidden in the checked-in baggage, but it is tolerated in the cabin without possibility to recharge it.

Carry-on baggage and liquids: what are the rules?

Following several attempted attacks to use liquid explosives on board of certain plane, in November 2006, the European Commission introduced a restriction on the transport of liquid products in the cabin.

Passengers are not allowed to take any container with them beyond the security checks at the airport that exceeds a capacity of 100 milliliters. This rule applies to all liquids (bottle of water, perfumes, toilet articles…), except some exceptions, such as for medication and special products to be used during the trip, such as baby food.

Containers of maximum 100 ml must be placed in a transparent and re-sealable bag plastic bag that will be shown during security checks. Only one bag with a maximum capacity of one liter is allowed per passenger.

Tip : bring an empty bottle that you can fill in after security checks at the taps in the boarding room.

For liquids of more than 100 ml, such as drinks or perfumes, they must be placed in the hold of the plane.

Only products sold beyond control points of boarding passes (ex: Duty free area) and transported in bag specially provided for that purpose are allowed on board.

Be careful if you have a connection! Some security services may be tighter and confiscate your purchases when you board the second flight.

Carry-on baggage: which weight and which dimension?

Airlines may fixed a limit on the weight, size, and a quantity of carry-on luggage allowed. There are no harmonized European regulations on the size and weight of hand luggage and the rules are often different from one airline to another.

Check the carriage general conditions of the chosen airline before leaving for finding out the size and weight of hand luggage allowed. If you change companies during the journey, check this information with all the companies on which you are going to fly.

Read the position statement of the ECC France on the revision of the European regulation 261/2004 calling upon to harmonize carriage rules of luggage in the EU.

Medicines on board: checked-in or carried-on baggage?

In principle, liquid medicines are allowed in the cabin if these products are necessary for the travel. Additional security checks may be practiced.

If you need your treatment during the flight, think about doing right formalities. Transport your medicines in a packaging with their notice. If you seek medical treatment for a chronical illness, think about taking an additional dose with you to those necessary for the strict duration of your trip, in case your flight would be delayed or cancelled.

Concerning your crossing through customs, think about the following justifications if your medicine is part of narcotics family (FR) (Morphine for example):

  • In a country of the Schengen area: the transport authorization, which allows to justify of the licit nature of the medicine. This authorization is delivered by the Regional Health Agency of the department where your prescribing doctor practices. It is valid for 30 days.
  • In a country outside the Schengen area or outside the European Union: you must have with you the prescription of your doctor and present it to the control authorities if requested.

On case of doubt, contact the customs service.

For the other non-narcotics medicines, there is no international harmonization, but only some recommendations of the National Health Agency. This means that every country has its own dispositions. You may also contact your embassy or your consulate in your destination country. In any case, introduce you with the prescription of your doctor.

BE CAREFUL: If your treatment needs injections, syringes and other equipment, think about providing a medical certificate in English and in your own language in order to certify that your equipment is entirely dedicated to your pathology.

Travelling by plane with a baby

You are allowed to bring in the cabin with you all foods and medicines whose you baby needed without restriction. However, security officers may carry out checks.

Liquids care products (lotion for changing the baby) are subjected to special regulation. They must be less than 100 ml each, and be placed in a transparent plastic bag (20cm by 20cm).

If you wish to transport your stroller or your child seat, every company has its own rules! Do not hesitate to contact the company to obtain necessary information.

Food: give preference to transport in the hold

If you wish to bring back gastronomic products from your holidays, it may be better to favor the transport in the hold.

In the cabin, restrictions are existed: marmalade, mousse, cream, sauce, compote, pâté, rillettes, soft cheese or any food that present similar in character to a liquid or a gel must be less than 100g or 100ml and be placed with the other liquids in a closed transparent bag.

The other products are in principle allowed (ex: sandwich) but depending on their consistence, their packaging (vacuum, box, jars, tin…) and their characteristics (mass, volume…), security officers may refused them. Be warned!

More information on the civil aviation website.

Lost or delayed baggage?

You baggage is not at the arrival airport. Is it lost or delayed?

A baggage is delayed when it is not present at your descent of the plane but that it is delivered to you within 21 days. If during the period of absence of your baggage you buy basic necessity products (hygiene products, underwear…), keep preciously all receipts and invoices to request reimbursement of the company. But beware, airlines check all the invoices, so rebuy only products that are absolutely necessary for you.

A baggage is considered as lost if the carrier admits the loss of your checked baggage or if your baggage is not delivered to you within 21 days that follow your arrival.

In case of missing luggage, the airline may sometimes provide you a basic necessity kit or give you a voucher to cover your first spending due to the absence of your suitcase, but it is not an obligation.

Good to know: If you carry out a return flight and your luggage are not at your destination, the airline do not proceed with the reimbursement of the products that you would be likely to have at your home. It will have to compensate you for the products that would be essential to you (medicines, equipment and personal effects or for a precise event), always on presentation of supporting documents.

What should you do if you have a problem with lost or delayed luggage on an airplane?

If your baggage is not here at your descent of the plane, here are the procedures to do:

  • Let the airport know about the absence of your suitcase to the counter of the last company that carried out you or at the “baggage” claim counter of the airport. The airline must give you a file number (PIR). Keep it because it will be requested for the treatment of your claim. If there is no counter, contact the company as soon as possible to signal the absence of your baggage and obtain a file number. If you are on holiday, do not wait to be back at home.
  • Keep all your travel documents: boarding passes, check-in receipts of your suitcase, baggage tag if you get it back.
  • If you receive your baggage late, you have 21 days from its receiving to send your claim in writing to the company and request the reimbursement of the necessity purchases on invoices presentation. Use its online form.
  • If you do not receive your baggage, you are entitled to claim the refund of your lost goods and suitcase by presenting purchase invoices. If you do not have any supporting documents, a compensation in function of the weight may be proposed to you (around 20€ per kilogram).

Be aware that in case of luggage loss, airlines do not refund lost personal effects based on their new value, but often apply a drop in value.

The company will have to reimburse for you the amount of your loss that you will have proved, but up to a maximum of approximately €1500 per passenger (Montreal convention).

  • If your damage is less than 1500€, you will only be entitled to reimbursement of the amount of your loss
  • If the amount of your proven damage is more than 1500€, you will only be entitled to an equal compensation of this maximum.

There is nothing to prevent you from subsequently taking legal action under your national law, e.g. for additional compensation. You have two years in which to begin court action against the company.

Damaged baggage: 7 days to report

If you notice at the arrival airport that your baggage has been damaged or destroyed during transport, you can request reimbursement from the carrier for the cost of your suitcase and damaged goods. To do so, you must write to the company within 7 days period following the reception of your suitcase by providing a maximum of elements concerning damaged goods during the transport (pictures of the damaged goods, purchase invoices…)

The company will have to compensate you in up to a maximum of approximatively 1500€ per passenger (Montreal convention).

  • If your damage is less than 1500€, you will only be entitled to reimbursement of the amount of your loss
  • If the amount of your proven damage is more than 1500€, you will only be entitled to an equal compensation of this maximum.

There is nothing to prevent you from subsequently taking legal action under your national law, e.g. for additional compensation. You have two years in which to begin court action against the company.

Who can help me in case of a problem?

If your dispute with the airline do not find an out-of-court agreement, you can:

  • Contact the ECC of your country if you have a dispute with a European airline,
  • Contact a French consumers association if you live in France and you have a dispute with a French airline,
  • You can also think about beginning a mediation procedure.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.