Your Lost Airline Baggage
Is Missing. Now What?

Your lost airline baggage has been missing for more than a week. Two weeks.   A month.  

You’ve pretty much given up hope you’ll ever see your possessions again - and you’re probably right.

Depending on the rules for lost luggage on the airline you flew when your lug-gage was determined to be 'missing', at some point in time, that airline must declare it to be 'irretrievably lost'.

This is the time for you to submit a claim for lost luggage compensation, so the airline will begin the process to reimburse you for your long-gone items. 

The airline's baggage claim office you've been dealing with while your luggage was considered 'missing', will instruct you on the steps to take. 

There's usually a time limit to submit a lost baggage claim, which will include a more detailed list of your missing belongings - along with their descriptions.

This is when a packing list and photos of the items you included in your suitcase becomes financially important.

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You’ll need to prepare a complete list of everything packed in your lost airline baggage, along with an item by item description 

You’ll also need to declare how long you owned the items [when you purchased them]. 

Airlines never reimburse based on replacement value or original cost

Instead, they estimate a depreciated value and may require purchase receipts for expensive items you claim were in your missing bag.

How Much Is Your Stuff Worth?

There's a common-sense list of items that will not be covered or reimbursed by U.S. airlines for domestic flights, even if you claim they were included in your lost airline baggage.  These items include – but are not limited to:

  •   Antiques
  •   Jewelry
  •   Cash Money
  •   Documents
  •   Eyewear
  •   Heirlooms
  •   Furs
  •   Medicines
  •   Cameras
  •   Electronics 

Some international airlines may pay pennies on the dollar for any provable items you claim were in your missing bag. You need to check individual airline websites for definitive information on their liability for lost luggage. 

But if you have items that are important to you, are of significant value, or are irreplaceable – leave them at home.

If you think you’re going to 'clean up' in exchange for your lost airline baggage, think again.  U.S. domestic flights pay a maximum of $3300, regardless of what was in your luggage - and almost always, considerably less.  International air-lines pay approximately half that amount. 

Payments are based on the airline’s evaluation and assessment of your ability to prove what was included in your checked luggage.  

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Regardless of the final amount of lost luggage compensation you receive, it will not [and cannot] exceed the pre-set limit of liability for lost airline baggage, as stated above.

More Reimbursement Options for Lost Airline Baggage

When all is said and done, and you’ve finalized negotiating with the airline, it’s unlikely you’ll come out financially whole.

However, there are additional resources that can help mitigate the effects of your lost airline baggage and its contents.

If you purchased travel baggage insurance, this is when you make a claim against that policy.  You won’t receive dual compensation, but since airlines pay so little, your baggage insurance will go a long way toward getting you back to where you were before the airline lost your luggage.

If you failed to purchase baggage insurance, you may be able to file against your homeowner’s or renter’s personal property insurance.  Again, no double-dipping, but the lost luggage compensation you received from the airline may cover your policy deductible.

Consider your options to determine which claim[s] are best for reimbursement, and which will have minimal affect on your personal insurance rates going forward.

Two items of note:  

  • Remember to include the cost, usage, and description of your suitcase on any claim.  This, too, will be valued at a depreciated rate.
  • Be sure to request reimbursement from the airline for fees you paid to check your luggage.  Airlines are duty-bound to repay this fee – and it should not be included as part of the value of your lost items. 

As noted in our article on how to find lost luggage, your airline may suggest reimbursement by travel vouchers.  Whether you accept this offer or not, is a personal decision.  

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The initial voucher offer may seem like you’re getting more for your loss. 

However, any terms and restrictions that limit how or when you use the vouch-ers lessens their worth.

Lost airline baggage adds millions to the cost of an airline’s bottom line on an annual basis. 

Anything they can do to limit this drag on their profitability is to their financial advantage. 

It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your bottom line.

Airlines are experienced in dealing with lost baggage claims. They know how to read a multitude of signals.  Don’t try to fool them.  Never lie about what was in your missing bag.  And refrain from being hostile or making demands and accu-sations.  None of these will advance your cause – and may work against you.

Lost airline luggage is definitely a downer, and you’re entitled to be upset. 

But the agent you’re dealing with is bound by the carrier’s lost luggage rules – not to mention the US Department of Transportation, the Warsaw and Montreal International Conventions, and domestic and international Airline Contracts of Carriage.

The airline agent you deal with is merely a facilitator.  She didn't make the rules.  

For more info on preventing lost luggage and what to do if it happens to you:

How To Prevent Lost Luggage  -  You can prevent lost luggage from hap-pening to you.  Learn how to help the airlines keep your travel luggage on the correct path back into your hands. 

How To Find Your Lost Luggage   Finding lost luggage is routine procedure for the airlines.  What you can do to make sure your missing bag is found and returned with the least amount of hassle. 

Travel Tip

When describing your items for lost luggage compensation, the better the description, the more information the airline has to work with  in order to formulate their assessment for reimbursement. 

A good item description is:

  • Red, short-sleeve t-shirt, size 10, 1 yr. old.  Or,
  • Gucci sandals with silver ornament, size 6, leather, purchased for trip.  Or,
  • Black knit dress with jacket, size 10, cotton blend, worn twice.   

Not only do accurate descriptions help in the airline’s assessment, your details show a sincere approach to the problem at hand.  Like a well-presented resume, what you say – and how you say it – speaks to much more than the cost of your lost items.  And it may encourage the airline to work in your favor.

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