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What to Do if Your Airline Luggage Gets Lost

What to Do if Your Airline Luggage Gets Lost

Few travel mishaps are as frustrating as dealing with lost airplane luggage. If your bags go missing, here’s how to stay cool and get them back fast.

It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare: approaching the baggage carousel at the airport and discovering that your luggage did not arrive with you. The percentage of luggage that gets lost by airlines is very small, but with millions of travelers in the air, the number still adds up to thousands of misplaced bags every year.

If your checked bag goes missing, don’t panic. Knowing what to do in that stressful situation can increase your odds of getting your suitcase back in a timely fashion.

To minimize your baggage hassles—no matter where you travel—follow these packing guidelines:

  1. Always try to bring a carry-on bag
  2. If you need to bring a larger suitcase, pack a few essentials in your carry-on bag—that is, toiletries, undergarments, a change of socks and anything you need immediately upon arrival.
  3. Attach a bright colored personal identifier or luggage ID to your checked bag with all of your contact information.

Should your bag still get lost, use these strategies to ensure that you get it back—or get compensated—as quickly as possible.

1. Stay calm and file a report

Don’t leave the airport right away. Head to the nearest customer service counter and file a report with the airline. Remember, the folks behind the counter aren’t the ones who lost your luggage, so ranting and raving at them won’t help you get your bags back any sooner. Remind yourself that most lost bags are found within a day or two, and remain calm in your conversations with airline representatives. They’ll want a description of your bag and its contents, as well as your contact information. As noted by usa.gov, you have the right to ask for a copy of the delayed baggage report and to confirm that the bag be delivered to you at no cost once it’s located.

2. Request compensation, if applicable

If you paid to have your bags transported and they weren’t transported properly or promptly, at the very least you’ll want to request a refund of the baggage fee. Each airline handles these situations differently. Some will not refund the baggage fee but will instead offer a voucher that’s good for savings on future travel, which can be a good deal if you fly frequently. In addition, if your luggage isn’t located within 24 hours, companies may offer reimbursement for essential items such as toiletries and clothing, provided you keep your receipts, so be sure to ask about your airline’s specific policies. If you did not pack your toiletries in your carry-on, many of the airlines will give you toiletry kits to hold you over. Make sure to ask customer service for one.

3. Be persistent

Whether you were given the phone number of the local baggage counter or a 1-800 corporate number, don’t be shy about calling twice daily for an update on the status of your bags. Airlines are handling a bunch of lost luggage claims at any given time, and if you’re dealing with a lengthy baggage absence, your case could easily get lost in the shuffle unless you keep putting the pressure on the airline. 

It’s rare that travel bags are really lost forever (only 2 percent of bags are never found) so hang in there! Chances are, you and your bag will be reunited in no time.

Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.

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