We don’t call it lost luggage, we call it mishandled.
- Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines
Besides renaming the problem to something less alarming, there are other ways to prepare for your bags going missing. And if they do, how to deal with it in style.
1. Prepare for Your Luggage to Go Missing While Packing
You can avoid a lot of the stress of lost luggage by preparing while packing. If you absolutely need to check in luggage, then always pack a carry-on bag. The bag should include one or two days worth of clothes – something for both cold and warm temperatures, an extra pair of shoes that complements the ones you wear to the airport, and any essential toiletries like tooth cleaning gear, contact lens equipment, and deodorant.
Get artistic on your suitcase. If your luggage gets lost, crazy stand-out features have a chance at getting it located faster than a black suitcase with zero defining features. Also its fun.
Place your name, contact details, and address inside as well as outside your luggage. Should the outside info get torn off, it shouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to identify your luggage’s owner.
Remove any luggage tags or stickers on your bags from previous trips to avoid confusing the luggage system at the airport.
Devices like GEGO may also be helpful for peace of mind. Especially if your luggage is expensive or not easy to replace. You can track your luggage via GSM and an app and so even if the airline has lost your luggage, you still know exactly where it is.
2. Prepare for Delayed or Lost Luggage While Checking It In
Always try to imagine that your luggage will get lost or delayed when travelling, and double check to distribute items between your check-in luggage and carry-on accordingly. Airlines will not reimburse special items like jewellery, electronics, and money. So unless you like to live on the wild side, airlines recommend you don’t pack those in your check-in luggage.
When you get the small luggage tag while checking in your luggage, take a picture of it. If your luggage gets lost, they will need that number to track it. If you are travelling with lots of luggage, try and take a picture of the tag in front of the luggage it represents. That way you won’t have to stand in the airport reading off 100s of numbers to identify which one belongs to the prodigal luggage.
3. Skip the Lost Luggage Queue Entirely
Many airlines now have online lost luggage filing service. If they do, it will generally be placed up on a notice by the counter. Unfortunately you may not see it until you’ve been queueing for 30 mins and reach the front.
Either go up to the front and check for a notice like this before queueing, or check online on the airline’s website while standing in line. If you find out you can file online, you can just leave the queue. You may also be able to put your details into the airlines site if they have an online luggage tracking service and find out right away where it is.
If you’ve followed tips 1 and 2, you’ll have enough calm and energy to inform your fellow queue people that online filing is available and come out looking like a complete hero.
4. If You Need to Queue at Lost Luggage, Be First
Many times when luggage is lost on a flight, it’s due to an error that has affected more than just one luggage piece. If you don’t spot your creatively decorated luggage, and can see others around you looking anxious, don’t wait!
When you start to suspect that your luggage will not fly out onto the baggage belt no matter how hard you stare at that hole in the wall, find the airport’s baggage handling service asap (before a queue starts to form) and report the missing item.
If you are travelling together with someone else, one of you can head over the lost luggage counter early and leave the other to keep staring.
Each case of lost luggage filing can take a lot of time. Between filling forms, getting information, angry & tired people who cant remember what their bags look like anymore, and have lost their luggage tags, it could take awhile.
5. Be Nice to Missing Luggage Handlers
Be nice to the handlers, they listen to people shouting at them all day every day and have a fair amount of discretionary power to decide how to deal with a customer. If you are nice to them, they might be pleasantly surprised and provide extra good service to you. Win-win!
Most lost luggage counters have a ”necessity kit” on hand to give to passengers in need. A small consolation but we’ll take anything at this point right? Also, if it’s a larger item like kids car seat or a baby buggy that’s gone missing, airports generally have a loaner that you can use until they reunite you with yours.
6. Find Out How As Much Info as Possible on the Airline’s Lost Luggage Policy
Ask for the purchase limits of the airline and if possible, get them to write it down or ask for the name of the agent that you’re dealing with. In general, airlines will compensate you for 100% of ”necessities” but only 50% or less of ”non-essentials” or ”re-useables”. Depending on who you are, this definition can possess a fair amount of grey zone interpretation. Some airlines will claim the compensation is only applicable on ”outbound journeys”. (whatever that means if you’re a nomad and live everywhere), however it makes sense to file a claim anyway if you are lacking essentials upon returning home.
Airlines are liable for compensations set at the moment of up to around €1200, but this seldom happens, so don’t go on a shopping binge. It’s dependent on the particular circumstances, how many pieces of baggage are delayed, and how long you have to survive without your baggage.
They will give you a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) which you should also take a picture of and store well, you will need it both to trace your baggage, and later to file claims for reimbursement for any purchases you’ve made.
7. Lost Bags Means New Clothes!
You can’t go on a shopping spree per se. But the airline is liable to reimburse up to a certain amount per hour and day your luggage is lost or delayed. And if you were headed on a special trip its reasonable to assume you needed something special from your luggage. Right?
If you have travel insurance, or credit card insurance, remember to check the small print. Most insurances require you to not have spent more than 5-6 weeks away from your primary residence to entitle you to claims. Some insurances allow you to extend your coverage without first returning to your primary residence. Many credit cards have Lost Luggage insurance baked in to their service. Sometimes the limits are higher than the airlines, so worth checking out. If insurance or credit cards are an option, remember that they also have reporting and filing deadlines, and you can file with all options at the same time.
8. Keep All Receipts of Lost Luggage Replacement Items
When you buy anything you want to be refunded, take pictures of the receipts right away, as these may be required on multiple occasions while you are filing claims with airlines, and insurance companies.
9. Know Your Lost Luggage Rights (And Responsibilities)
The airline is required to get your luggage to you, wherever you are. There are clear rules for how much, what, and when the airline needs to process and reimburse any claim.
You can read more on your rights in case of lost luggage or delays here.
10. Use a Lost Luggage Compensation Company to Handle Your Claim
There are deadlines for filing claims, like 7 days for damage claims, 21 days for delayed baggage claims, and up to 2 years for missing baggage claims.
There are companies like Claimair, who can process your claims for you. If you don’t feel like the back and forth is worth your time, go with one of them, and just enjoy the rest of your trip.
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