Your Lost Airline Baggage
Is Truly 'Missing'. Now What?

Your lost airline baggage has now been missing for more than a week. 

Maybe two weeks.  

Even a month.  

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

Depending on the procedures used by the airline you flew when your luggage was determined to be 'temporarily missing', if it's not located within a reason-able time, that airline must declare your luggage to be irretrievably lost.

When this happens, it's time for you to submit a claim for lost luggage compen-sation, so the airline will begin the reimbursement process for your long-gone items. 

The same airline office you filed your initial lost baggage claim with will instruct you on the proper steps to take to receive compensation. 

Most airlines have a specific time limit within which you must submit your claim for lost baggage compensation. The rules for this claim are a bit more stringent.

You'll need to provide a more detailed list of your missing belongings than you did when you filed your initial lost luggage claim. You'll also need to provide a description of each item in your missing luggage for which you are request-ing compensation.

This is the time to dig out that packing list you made, or the photos you took of your belongings as you packed your bag!

'What?' you say. You didn't make a packing list. And you definitely didn't take photos of the items you packed!

Well, this doesn't mean you won't be reimbursed for your items lost by the airline. But it does mean your job of remembering everything that was in your luggage will be much more difficult.

Medieval Canal Side Houses in Bruges

You’ll need to carefully think back to when you packed your luggage and create a complete list of everything you remember placing in your bag. You'll need to provide a definitive description of each item, as to type, size, fabric, quantity, use, value, and age.   

Note: the airlines never reimburse based on either an item's replace-ment value or original cost

Rather, they estimate a depreciated value of your items and may require pur-chase receipts for any 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 provable items you claim were in your missing bag. You can check online for liability guide-lines for lost luggage for the specific airline you flew. 

But - as every savvy traveler knows - if you have items that are of significant value, are important to you, or are irreplaceable – leave them at home!

If you think you’re going to 'clean up' in exchange for items in your lost airline baggage, think again. U.S. domestic flights are allowed to pay a maximum of $3300, regardless of what was in your luggage. And almost always, they pay considerably less. 

International airlines 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.  

The White Cliffs of Dover

Reimbursement Options for Your Lost Airline Baggage

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

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

If you purchased travel baggage insurance, this is the time to make a claim against that policy. 

You won’t receive dual compensation from both the airline and insurance. But since airlines usually pay so little, travel baggage insurance may help put you closer to where you were financially before your luggage went missing.

If you failed to purchase baggage insurance before your trip, you may be able to file a claim against your homeowner’s or renter’s personal property insur-ance. Again, no double-dipping, but compensation you receive from the airline may help cover the deductible amount of your policy.

Consider all insurance options when determining which type of claim offers the best reimbursement terms and which will have minimal affect on your insurance rates going forward.

Two issues to consider:  

  • Remember to include the cost, age, usage, and description of your luggage on any claim you make. Compensation for your luggage will also be valued at a depreciated rate, but anything you get is better than nothing!
  • Be sure to request reimbursement for any fees you paid the airline to check your luggage. Airlines are duty-bound to repay this fee, and it should be in addition to the reimbursement for your packed items. 

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

Luxemburg is Lovely in Spring

But, be aware: whatever the initial voucher amount offered by the airline, it may seem like you’d be getting more for your loss. 

However, any terms or restrictions that limit how and when you use the travel voucher will lessen its value.

Lost airline baggage adds millions to the cost of an airline’s bottom line annual-ly, while vouchers for future travel will cost them almost nothing. 

By offering travel vouchers instead of actual money, airlines limit the negative impact on their profitability and create a win-win scenario for themselves. 

But you must decide what’s best for your own 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 accusations. None of these will advance your cause, and a hostile attitude may work against you.

Lost airline luggage is definitely a downer. You’re entitled to be upset. 

But the agent you’re dealing with is bound not only by the carrier’s rules for lost luggage, but guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Transporta-tion, the Warsaw and Montreal International Conventions, and domestic and international Airline Contracts of Carriage.

The airline agent you're dealing with didn't make the rules - nor can they change them. He or she is merely a facilitator trying to help you.  

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. 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 a routine procedure for 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 you give them, the more information the airline has to work with in order to formulate an 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. A cool head may encourage the airline to work in your favor.

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