Worst-case scenario: you've landed at your destination after a long flight and watched as every single bag has come and gone on the conveyor belt at baggage claim. Your luggage? Nowhere to be seen. It's every traveler's most dreaded situation, but it happens. Bags get routed to the wrong airport, damaged, or lost to the airport abyss, never to be seen again. The first (and most important) step to avoid losing something extremely special to you is to pack your valuables in your carry-on. Still, sometimes bags simply have to be checked, so here are some tips for what to do if your luggage is lost.
1. Go to the baggage claim office at the airport.
As soon as you realize that your bags are never coming down that conveyor belt, make sure to be proactive and notify the airline immediately. The sooner you start the process of finding your lost luggage, the sooner the issue can (hopefully) be resolved. In many cases, the bag was not lost but was put on the wrong flight. Make sure to get a copy of your report so that you can have proof should you need it at any point.
2. Know your luggage!
"Know the brand, color, and size of your luggage," said Richie Copelovitch from iFLY Luggage. The better you're able to describe your missing luggage, the easier it will be for the airline/airport to find it.
3. Don't lose your baggage claim tag!
In the bustle of showing your ID, getting your plane tickets, dropping off your bags, and getting through security, it's easy to lose track of things. However, it's very important that you hang on to the baggage claim ticket/sticker given to you (often stuck to your boarding pass). In the case of lost luggage, you'll need this!
4. Find out what the airline policy is in terms of monetary compensation.
"Different airlines have different policies," Copelovitch said. "If your bag is lost for more then 24 hours, the airlines will help you to buy clothes until they get your bag to you." Oftentimes, you can also find the maximum amount of claims you can take on the back of your plane ticket. Make sure to look out for this.
5. Let your luggage come to you.
"Don't volunteer to come back to the airport to get your lost bag," Copelovitch advised. "The airlines will get your bag to you. It's their responsibility. Simply let them know where you will be staying so they can send it to you."
6. Ask the airlines to provide toiletries and necessities.
"If you need bathroom amenities such as toothbrush, deodorant etc., the airlines often have kits available with their lost baggage staff." Let the airlines know what you need, and you should be able to get must-have items to help hold you over until you can get your luggage back.
7. Stay diligent!
The airlines are dealing with a slew of issues on a daily basis, so don't let your lost luggage fall through the cracks. "Keep checking with your airline," Copelovitch said. "Don't let them forget about you. Do it nicely. The airline does not care that you will not have clothes for Aunt Millie's wedding; don't tell them the stories that they don't need to know. It won't get you your bag faster."
8. Get travel insurance.
Travel insurance helps cover some, if not all, of your losses in the event that your luggage is missing for a certain period of time or if it is lost and cannot be located.
9. If your luggage is truly lost, set a claim.
Chances are you won't be getting compensation for the full price of your lost luggage, but make sure to set a claim with the airline in order to get as much reimbursement as you can. Be honest about the worth of your bags — making up a number larger than what your luggage was worth could lead to your claim being completely denied.
Some helpful tips for keeping track of your luggage:
- Get an identification for your bags! All airlines supply paper tags for free, but those are flimsier and more likely to be damaged. It's a good idea to get a sturdy tag that's secure on your bag so that you can easily identify your luggage and so that, in the case of lost luggage, it's easier to find.
- Double-check the tags on your bags before they are sent down the conveyor belt. "When the bag is tagged at check-in, check the tag before it goes down the conveyor belt to make sure it is going where you are going," Copelovitch said. "Airport agents are very busy and can easily make mistakes. It is your job to make sure that the correct name and destination is on the tag. All tagged bags have your name and destination on them."
- Avoid overweight bags. "If the baggage handler can't lift the bag, it may get put aside. If the aircraft is overweight, it will get put aside. Aircrafts need to adhere to strict weights and balances to ensure flight safety. They will remove bags if they have to. You may be able to get it by the check-in agent, but you won't get it by the handlers. If there is no heavy tag on it and it is overweight, you're in for trouble."
- Make sure your luggage is in good enough condition to fly. Be on the lookout for broken zippers, holes, or places in your bags that are susceptible to ripping or breaking. "If that happens before your bag makes it to the plane, it will get put aside without question. If your luggage is worn out, replace it to save a lot of headaches," Copelovitch said.