Published April 05, 2012
Losing luggage is a horrible way to start a vacation and an equally bad way to end one. Luckily, around 98 percent of people are reunited with their lost luggage. So stay cool–you may have lost your bag, but there is no need to lose your mind.
If your bag goes missing, here are the next steps to take:
Inform the airline
Around the baggage carousel, you should be able to find the airline’s luggage counter or representative. While you are justifiably angry at the airline, remember to remain calm. Someone else lost your luggage–not this person in front of you. Tell them all of your pertinent information, including where you departed from, your flight number and how many bags you had. When you checked in, the airline agent would have given you a luggage stub for every checked bag. Give these stubs to the luggage attendant, who should hopefully be able to track down the bag. It may been delayed, left behind in transit or completely lost. The employee will make a report, and you should ask for a copy. You should also ask for a number that will put you in direct contact with the baggage counter, so you can avoid the more hassles when you follow up. File a report as soon as possible: Many airlines only honor lost luggage claims four hours after the last leg of the flight.
Keep your receipts
Once you have filled out a report, chances are you will get your luggage within one or two days. You may need to buy a few toiletries or necessities until then. If this is the case, insist that the airline reimburse you for these purchases. The reimbursement process can last a while. For example, the United Airlines policy asks you to send a written request within 45 days of your flight, including your ticket receipt, baggage claim stubs and an itemized list of your necessary purchases, as well as their corresponding receipts. You may also be reimbursed for any baggage fees you had to pay, as long as you saved the receipts.
For a completely lost bag
If you are in the unlucky 2 percent of people whose bags are absolutely irretrievable, you have to file a claim, usually within 21 to 45 days of the flight. You will need your ticket and all of your baggage claim receipts, including any receipts for fees associated with excess or overweight luggage. Write out an itemized list of the bag’s contents, in as much detail as possible. For items worth more than $100, you will likely want to include some proof of ownership. This can be a receipt or credit card bill. Note that the airline will compensate you for the depreciated value of the object, not necessarily how much you paid. The Department of Transportation limits the maximum claims to $3,300 for lost or damaged luggage, per individual passenger.
You can help prevent the hassles of a lost bag with a few simple tricks. Take off any old tags from flights you had taken before. The tags may confuse the person responsible for directing the luggage. Label your bag inside and out with your name and phone number. You should also take a photo of your luggage, which you may help the airline employee identify it later. Keep any valuables, including medicine, electronics, heirlooms, manuscripts and credit cards in your carry-on luggage.