Sweeping changes planned for aviation law include provision for passengers to claim up to $20,000 for lost luggage.

Proposals out today would allow New Zealanders to apply to the Disputes Tribunal for lost, delayed or damaged baggage.

The tribunal is quicker and less formal than a court and can settle claims up to $15,000 or, if parties agree, $20,000.

While better electronic tagging now means on average 99.5 per cent of bags make it to where they need to on airline networks, payments they're obliged to make are much lower.


One airline here, Jetstar, limits liability for loss or damage to checked and cabin baggage to $2000. Montreal Convention rules limit payment for losses on international flights at just under $2300.

Commentary with the planned changes to the Civil Aviation Act says views will be sought on ways of making clear that the tribunal has powers to hear disputes over luggage.

Airlines also face new disclosure rules.

''We also propose new regulation making powers to prescribe requirements for the disclosure of information about passenger rights regarding delay, and lost, damaged and
delayed baggage.''

Powers of Aviation Security (Avsec) staff are also clarified in the bill, including their right to search bags.

This proposal will make explicit that Avsec can conduct hold stow baggage searches without the consent of the passenger for both domestic and international travel, where
there is a risk to aviation safety or security that requires immediate response.

The use of soldiers to provide back-up at airports is also proposed.

''There may be times when Avsec needs additional resources, for example, if there is a significant security incident and additional screening is necessary at very short notice. The proposal makes changes to allow defence force personnel to act as aviation security officers (ASOs) for specified or limited purposes.''


It will also become an offence to assault an ASO or harm a dog used by them. Existing rules apply only to obstructing officers.

Rules around drugs and alcohol will also be tightened.

Commercial aviation operators involved in safety sensitive activities must develop drug and alcohol management plans, which include random testing of safety sensitive workers.

The director of Civil Aviation will also have a power to undertake ''non-notified'' drug and alcohol testing.

While a 2012 hot air balloon accidents led to stricter rules in the adventure aviation sector and many operators and airports have their own random testing and workplace drug and alcohol bans, the existing Civil Aviation Act doesn't contain any industry-wide regulations.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the changes would affect every part of the aviation sector.

"Safety is our top transport priority and the proposed laws will make our airports, and flying, safer for New Zealanders and visitors to our country,'' he said.

New testing would have to meet Bill of Rights requirements.