What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Bag

Ninety-eight percent of people who lose their luggage are eventually reunited with it. While this figure is reassuring it doesn’t make the ordeal of losing your luggage any easier to deal with. Standing at the carousel and realizing that your bag is not going to be making its way back to you in the near future is definitely on the top ten list of terrible travel experiences. While most misplaced luggage is reunited with its owner within a day or two, sometimes it can take weeks to locate a lost bag if they find it at all. To ensure that a case of misplaced luggage doesn’t entirely ruin your trip, follow these  tips.

Before your bag goes missing…

Don’t Check Valuables
The airline liability per bag (per the Department of Transportation) is only $3,300. While this is enough to cover most basic clothing items and other odds and ends you might have stowed away, it’s definitely not enough to cover valuables like cameras, electronic equipment, jewelry, or artwork. If you have valuables with you the best thing to do is to stow them in your carry-on and keep them with you at all times. If that’s not an option and you must travel with them, consider shipping your valuables with a certified shipping company that provides insurance.

Take Photos of Your Bags and Their Contents
If your luggage is lost, the airlines will ask for a list of the items in your suitcase. Make it easier for yourself by writing a short list before you check your bag or better yet take a quick photo of everything laid out on the floor before you throw it in your suitcase and then take a photo of the bags. Airlines will also ask for receipts so you might want to start hanging on to them if you don’t already.

Pack a Few Basic Necessities in Your Carry-On
In order to avoid having a misplaced suitcase ruin a trip, pack a carry-on with basic items to get you through just in case. Along with valuables, throw in basic toiletries, a change (or two) of clothing, and any other odds and ends you’d need. That way if your suitcase does get lost, you won’t have to spend the first few days scrambling around trying to buy extra clothes or find toiletries at two in the morning in a city you’ve never been to.

Consider Travel Insurance
Airlines will reimburse you for the contents in your bag, but it’s not money you’ll see right away and you’ll need to provide receipts for all the items in your bag.  One way around that hassle is to purchase a travel insurance plan that covers lost bags.

After your luggage goes missing…

Inform the Airlines Immediately
After a long day of travel, the last thing anyone wants to do is to stand in another line and go through more bureaucratic procedures. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil. As soon as you realize your bag is missing, make your way to the airlines customer service desk to enquire about your bag. It’s possible that it was only delayed and will be coming on the next flight. If not, you can begin the process of filing a lost baggage claim.  They’ll need  your flight information, claim tickets, and a bag description (you’ll be glad you took photos). Some airlines allow a specific window of time in which passengers can file a claim, however it’s always better to do it as soon as possible and before you leave the airport.

Be Persistent
If your bag doesn’t show up within a few days, don’t give up. It can sometimes take a few weeks to get a bag back. If the situation isn’t handled in a way you find satisfactory,  file a complaint with the airlines or with the Department of Transportation.

By Nikki Hodgson