Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Eight Steps to Take if You Ever Experience the
Frustration of Lost Luggage

You watch the baggage carousel wind around for what seems like the millionth time, start to see the same five bags circling over and over, and then the carousel winds to a slow, but very final, stop.

lost luggage

Your first step when your luggage is missing? Report it to the airline before you leave the airport.

Only then, with a sinking feeling in your gut, do you admit to yourself that your suitcase is not there.

Now what?

First realize that you are not alone. There were eight reports of mishandled luggage (lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered) for every 1,000 passengers in August 2007, according to this month's Air Travel Consumer Report (a monthly product of the Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (OAEP)).

Often, your bag may not actually be lost; it may simply be delayed. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), about 98 percent of delayed bags are returned to their owners within a few hours. However, there are all-too-many horror stories of the other 2 percent of bags. The ones that don't show up for days or weeks, perhaps not even until after you've returned home.

Now, regressing back to the baggage carousel. You realize that your bag is not there. What should you do? Here are the immediate steps you should take:

  1. Report it to the airline BEFORE you leave the airport.

  2. Insist that the proper form is filled out regarding your claim, and be sure to receive a copy of it. Have a form filled out even if the airline assures you your bag is on the next flight.

  3. Make sure you write down the name of the airline representative you're dealing with and a follow-up number (this should NOT be the same number as the reservation desk).

  4. Find out how your bag will be delivered to you if it is found. Note that some airlines will charge you to deliver it, or may not offer an option of delivery at all.

  5. Ask whether you can get a cash advance for emergency purchases. Most airlines do have discretionary money for this purpose, but the guidelines for who receives it depend on whether you're away from home and how long it takes for your bags to be returned.

  6. If you don't get a cash advance (or don't opt to) ask the representative what purchases are reimbursable. Keep all of your receipts for items purchased, and note that the airline may only reimburse you for a portion of the cost, because you will be able to use the new items in the future.

  7. If the matter is not fully resolved by the time you leave the airport, keep a record of every airline representative you dealt with and keep all of your receipts and travel documents (it IS OK to give the airline your baggage claim tags, according to the DOT, as long as it is written on your form (and theirs) that you have returned them). Then, call the airline's consumer office when you get home.

  8. In the event that your luggage is, indeed, lost (not just delayed), you will have to file a claim with the airline. This usually involves filling out a second, more detailed form. Here's what you need to know to file a claim for lost luggage:

One way to make sure your bag gets to the same location as you? Check the three-letter code on your luggage tags when you check-in with your airline. They should correspond with your final destination.

  • There are deadlines involved. Find out what they are or your entire claim could become invalid.

  • Inquire about all the necessary paperwork you need to fill out, and be sure to fill out said paperwork in full.

  • If your flight involved two airlines, the final airline is usually the one who processes the claim (even if the first airline lost the bag).

  • Be prepared for negotiations. Depending on the amount of your claim, the airline may ask you for sales receipts and other documentation. If you don't have them, you can expect to go back and forth about what's a fair price for your goods.

  • Airlines may have liability limits of $3,000 per passenger on domestic flights (limits on international flights vary). If your baggage is worth more than this, purchasing "excess valuation" when you check in will increase the airline's potential liability (though it will not guarantee you receive the full amount).

  • It can take anywhere from six weeks to three months to receive payment for lost luggage.

  • If you decide to take an offer for free airline tickets that are valued at more than your settlement in lieu of cash (a deal that airlines sometimes offer), make sure you find out about blackout dates and other travel restrictions before you commit.

  • If you aren't happy with your settlement, you may have other options. Homeowner's or renter's insurance sometimes covers lost baggage, as do some credit card companies and travel agencies.

How to Increase the Chance That Your Bags Will Arrive When You Do

Sometimes, a lost bag is purely due to chance -- your bag tag gets ripped off by a conveyer belt, your suitcase gets mysteriously rerouted and misses your plane, a baggage handler mistakenly loads it onto the wrong cart, etc.

There are ways, however, to give your luggage the best chances of reaching your destination alongside you. The following tips take hardly any extra time, and could save you the headache of having none of your possessions on your next trip.

  • Label your luggage with your name and phone number (minimum), and also your address, both INSIDE your suitcase and out.

  • Make sure your bag is securely closed and can't pop open easily.

  • When you check in, make sure the agent puts a tag on all of your bags.

  • Also check the three-letter airline code on each tag. It should match up with the airport of your FINAL destination.

  • If possible, hang around until you physically see your bags being loaded, tags intact, onto the conveyer belt.

If you want to go above and beyond, and really protect yourself (or if you've lost a suitcase in the past and aren't taking anymore chances), you can also:

  • Make a list of what's included in each of your bags, including the estimated values

  • Take a picture of the contents of your bag

  • Consider buying excess valuation if you know your luggage is worth a lot

  • Not check any bags ... and stick to carry-on luggage instead!

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

The Risk of Flying in Small Airplanes vs. Large Airplanes


U.S. Department of Transportation

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This