Nothing can ruin your trip more quickly than realizing you’ve become a casualty of lost luggage.
Whether you’ve just arrived at your vacation destination, or returned home after a fabulous trip, realizing your airline luggage didn’t arrive with you can dampen your mood – and sometimes, your trip.
Much of this is due to new and innovative baggage-tracking technology that monitors your luggage from check-in to carousel delivery.
But, if you’re among those few travelers whose checked luggage doesn’t find its way onto the post-flight carousel, there are steps you can take right away to make sure you and your missing bag are reunited.
outcome is that your luggage is merely delayed. This can still be a hassle, but it's the best case
scenario to salvage your trip, your precious vacation time, and even your travel funds.
The first step, once you’re reasonably sure your luggage is a no-show, is to go immediately to your airline’s lost luggage claim location and have them start a trace on your missing bag.
Do this before you leave the airport, regardless of how tired you are or how anxious you are to get to your hotel. Many airlines will only accept a lost baggage claim within 24 hours of its occurrence.
What if you were on multiple flights or carriers and are not sure which airline is responsible?
It's the one you arrived on.
This is a universal arrangement by all airlines: whichever air carrier you last flew will be the one to deliver your bag back into your hands.
In and around most airport baggage claim areas are offices and/or counters for the airlines who fly into that airport, staffed by personnel who can track lost luggage for their customers.
To start a trace on your missing luggage, you’ll need to identify yourself, produce your checked baggage stub, and provide a description of your bag.
You'll also need to complete some paperwork. Often agents offer for you to skip this part, if your bag is due to arrive shortly.
But calmly insist on completing the airline’s lost baggage infor-mation and have it entered into their data system - for your own protection - in case something goes wrong. And always request a copy of forms or information you provide the airline.
If you can produce a photo of your luggage, especially noting any distinguishing marks or features, that's an added bonus and will help the airline locate your bag, if it winds up in a lost luggage warehouse or storage facility.
The airline agent will then trace your lost luggage online to see if it missed your flight due to timing, mishandling, or if it was inadvertently re-routed to another destination.
In the majority of cases, a bag gone missing is the result of it not making it onto your connecting flight due late check-in for your first flight or an error on your luggage tag, when it was originally checked.
Hint: When you first check your luggage, always verify both the tag and your stub to make sure they’re printed correctly:
Once your lost luggage is located, it should be easy to arrange how it will be returned to you.
If it’s on the next flight – due to arrive in a reasonably short time - the airline agent may suggest you wait for it. However, it’s the airlines responsibility to get your bag to you, unless you caused the luggage to miss your flight by checking in late.
Let your common sense and courtesy rule. If it’s convenient for you to wait, be as accommodating as possible. But certainly, ask for a meal voucher to use in the airport while you wait.
If you prefer to get to your destination [home, hotel, etc.], make arrange-ments for the airline to deliver your missing bag. This should be done free of charge.
Be sure to give a correct address and phone number for where you’ll be, and always get a name and number to contact the baggage claim office for updates on your bag’s transit.
Since many airlines have digital bag-tracking
accessible on their websites, be sure to ask how to track the progress of your
missing luggage online.
If your bag is missing for more than a day, this can be your worst case scenario. But before you panic or give up hope that you’ll ever see your possessions again, there’s more you can do to help locate your missing luggage.
Contact the baggage claim office where you filed the luggage trace and frequently check on your bag’s status.
Offer any additional contact information, such as your moving itinerary [including phone numbers and addresses] if you’re on the road, or a work/daytime phone number, if at home.
Be prepared to give onward details of your itinerary, so the airline can keep you informed and, hopefully, deliver your missing bag.
You should expect to be reimbursed for reasonable overnight expenses.
This will rarely include clothing during the initial period of your bag being missing. But a few toiletries like tooth brush & paste, comb, deodorant, etc., are fully reasonable. You will need to purchase what you need and keep all receipts for reimbursement.
After 24 hours, if your bag is still not located, the airline should offer funds for you to carry on without your belong-ings. This might include a change of clothes, pajamas, socks, undies, etc., similar to what you wear when you're on vacation.
If you’re traveling for business and have a special meeting or engagement, work-related clothing is within reason.
You’ll need to produce proof of your need [like a confirmed meeting agreement, texts, emails, letters, etc.], and you must be reasonable in the clothing items you buy. You' not be reimbursed for expensive or unnecessary items.
If you’re at home, the logical assumption is that you have your own work clothes.
But for bona fide necessities when on the road, insist the airline provide you with funds to cover your expenses. Keep receipts for reimbursement, and above all, be practical and realistic in your purchases and expectations.
It's not uncommon for the airlines to offer you 'more money' in the form of travel vouchers, rather than actual expense reimbursement. This can be as much as a 2 to 1 ratio. Travel vouchers cost the airline almost nothing. It will be your decision to determine the value of your cash outlay for necessities vs. any other terms they offer.
Hint: If an offered travel voucher comes with restrictions, decline it for a cash reimbursement.
After 72–96 hours, unless the airline tells you otherwise, eg., that it has located your lost baggage, the chance that you'll be reunited with your missing items is slim. Your luggage may be truly lost.
Hopefully, you purchased travel baggage insurance to protect you in case of a loss. Regardless, compensation for your lost baggage is still owed by the airline.
And here’s where the real work begins!
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.
Lost Airline Baggage – What Are Your Rights? No
traveler plans to end up with lost airline baggage. But if you do, know what the airline’s
liability is for lost luggage, and what you have to do to be compensated for