Lost luggage? Here is what you need to do

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As the summer continues to shine a light on how chaotic the airline industry has become, it’s more important than ever that travelers minimize their chances of losing a checked bag. If possible, it would be best not to check a bag at all. However, it is not always possible to travel without checked luggage and no matter how much you minimize the chances, it is always possible that the luggage will end up lost.

So what should you do if you receive the unfortunate news that your bag has gone missing? Below are some actions you should take; the sooner the better.

Man sitting on baggage carousel disappointed

Act quickly

  • This step is first because it is the most important. As soon as you realize that your baggage is missing, go directly to the airline’s assistance or baggage counter and open a lost/delayed baggage claim. You’ll need your ID and baggage claim tag, so make sure you put it somewhere you’ll remember!
  • A common culprit of lost luggage is a sorting error and your bag will likely end up on the wrong flight. Once found, the luggage will be returned to you, ideally within a few days. As a precaution, always pack a few days worth of essentials in your carry-on bag. Be sure to get a copy of a lost baggage report, as this may come in handy later if your bag remains lost for longer than expected.

Get some money

Refund at the airline counter
  • If you have paid a fee to check your baggage, you are entitled to a refund in most cases. When you file your lost baggage report, ask to receive a refund of the bag check fee you paid. It’s best to claim this right away, as getting a refund can be more challenging if you wait too long.

Check coverage and track expenses

  • Some airlines will reimburse money spent on essentials such as clothing, toiletries and other travel requirements in the event of a lost bag. Be sure to ask the desk agent what is covered and how much they will reimburse.
  • When buying essentials, keep receipts so you’re ready if the airline asks for proof after a claim.

Send it to your final destination

The man pushing the luggage carrier in the hotel
  • If the agent does not offer to deliver your luggage to your home or hotel, be sure to ask them to do so. There’s no reason to have to go back to the airport to collect your luggage, which can be especially helpful if your hotel is a long way from the airport.

Keep your credit card in mind

Man checking credit card benefits
  • Many credit cards offer travel benefits that cover lost or delayed luggage. This is another area where keeping receipts and getting copies of reports from the airline will come in handy.
  • Take a look at your credit card benefits guide to find out what they cover, when to notify them and how to file a claim. They usually have this information available online, or you can call the number on the back of your card.

Travel Insurance

  • Perhaps one of the best things you can do to prepare for lost luggage, travel insurance will help cover any costs or losses incurred. Typically, travel insurance will cover any expenses after taking into account how much the airline reimburses you.
  • Some travel insurance will cover incidentals at a per diem rate, while others have a flat cover amount. Submit your policy and check it and contact your insurance immediately. To make this easy, check if your insurance provider has an app or live chat you can use instead of calling or emailing.

Inspect after delivery

Damaged luggage
  • Once your luggage is (hopefully!) returned to you, be sure to inspect it for any damage or missing items. Airlines will reimburse you for the damage, as compensation for damaged baggage is a requirement set by the Department of Transportation.
  • In the event that an item is missing, you may be able to track it through the airline or receive a refund. If the airline does not enforce the refund, this is where having a travel insurance plan comes in handy.

If the worst happens

Lost luggage on Asphalt
  • Hopefully, after trying everything above, your luggage will have found its way back to you. However, if your luggage is officially declared lost by the airline, it’s time to file a claim for everything you’ve lost.
  • List everything that was in your bag with estimated values. If you have original receipts, it will be even better. Anything that helps the airline estimate the value of your baggage will be helpful. Depending on the country, airlines will have limits on how much they are liable for. For more details, see your passenger rights.
  • Of course, a new level of cover may kick in from your credit card provider or travel insurance if the bag is officially ‘lost’ and not just delayed, so check those covers too.

An important reminder

Pleasant interaction at the airport counter

Throughout the process, it’s helpful to stay positive and calm. This will benefit you by keeping your trip enjoyable and getting the airline staff on your side. Airline staff have been dealing with a lot lately and being someone easy to work with will go a long way. It can be challenging, especially when so many personal items are missing, but the airline staff will do their best to help you. Traveling can be stressful at times, so try not to let a lost bag ruin a trip. Pack a good bag, stay optimistic and the rest will work itself out.

Read more:

These 4 airlines are your best bet for avoiding flight delays

Checking a bag? How to minimize the chances of lost luggage

Don’t check a bag now! Here’s what you can bring with you

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions subject to change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before you travel. Travel Off Path does not endorse travel against government advice

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