Airlines lose hundreds of passengers’ luggage every day. Unfortunately, my wife and I have experienced this on more than one occasion while traveling around the world. On the bright side, we’ve gained the insight into dealing with this aggravating issue with the airlines.
Here are five tips to help you handle the situation and how you can better equip yourself if it ever happens to you.
1. Travel Insurance
On a trip to Sri Lanka, our two strollers didn’t arrive in Colombo with our checked luggage. After filing a claim through the travel insurer, we were reimbursed $400 for the inconvenience a few months later. There are various travel insurance companies, and policy costs are low, especially when you sign up with one in advance of your day of departure. So, check which one will work best for your trip. You may not foresee anything happening upon booking your vacation, but it’s good to have when the unexpected arises.
Furthermore, if you buy your airline tickets with a credit card, which has a supplemental insurance for lost or delayed baggage, you can also file a claim with the insurer, mentioning that you’ve already filed one with the airline. In some cases, they may cover some of the fees on top of the airline reimbursements. You can also buy your ticket by credit card with the addition of a $5 baggage insurance. Depending on the credit card, you could be paid up to $2,000 for lost luggage and receive cash to buy new clothes, or $500 if the bag is lost for 3 days but found. You should also check your renters’ insurance, as it may cover you too. If you don’t see it stated in your policy, then call and ask—you’ve got nothing to lose.
2. Don’t leave the airport without taking action
If your luggage doesn’t arrive at your destination, then report the issue with an airline agent at the customer service desk in the baggage claim area, or someone else from a different airline under certain circumstances. You’ll have to complete a Property Irregularity Report, or PRI, with the details of your flight, luggage, and your contact information. You’ll receive one copy, while the airline keeps the other.
If you arrive late at night and no one is at the ticket or customer service counter of the airline you flew, make sure to call the airline as soon as possible in order to begin the process of reporting your lost luggage.
3. GPS Tag
Our luggage arrived on our flight from Auckland to LAX, but it never reached our final destination in Denver. It had all our souvenirs and valuable items we had collected during our six-month stay in New Zealand. The total value lost was approximately $5,000. We filed our claim and heard the promises that the airline would deliver our luggage to us in a few days. However, that turned into weeks, and then months—still, nothing arrived at our door step.
A way to avoid not knowing where your luggage is, is to buy a tracking device or baggage tag. There are various models on the market that can help you locate your suitcase in the very first hours of it missing.
Tracking devices go inside your suitcase, and an accompanying smartphone app lets you know where your bag is. In order not to waste the battery, LugLoc, for example, automatically switches off at take-off and turns back on when the plane lands. In terms of baggage tags, ReboundTAG utilizes a bar code for airline staff to scan and two microchips, one to identify your suitcase and the other to track it through an airport that uses microchips.
SuperSmart Tag uses a bar code for airline staff to scan and trace your suitcase. Register the bar code on their website so that if your bag is lost but found, you can be notified.
4. Stand out above the rest
Although a black suitcase is the most common, it won’t stand out on the baggage claim carousel because everyone else on the flight has one that looks similar. Make your luggage unique by having one that stands out in a bright color, adding colorful luggage straps, or stickers or patches of places you’ve visited. It’s all too easy for travelers to mistake your suitcase for theirs. Moreover, the chances of anyone intent on stealing your eye-catching suitcase will greatly decrease.
Also take a couple of pictures of your luggage, including one that shows the brand name. Under stressful circumstances while filing your claim at the airport, you may be at a loss to provide more details about your plain, black suitcase with four wheels.
In the meantime, don’t go on a shopping spree while waiting for your luggage to arrive. The airline will only reimburse your for a fraction of those items. Therefore, be reasonable with your spending.
5. Be patient
There’s nothing you can do until you’ve reached the delayed and status airlines have set for lost luggage. After that point, you can file a claim for reimbursement. So, getting yourself riled up won’t accelerate the process.
When filing for compensation, you should include the copy of the PIR, the boarding card with the attached luggage tag, and other documents such as receipts and photographs. Here’s a timetable for filing your complaint:
- If your luggage has been damaged or destroyed, make your complaint within seven days
- If your luggage has been delayed, file your complaint within 21 days of receiving it
- If your luggage has been lost, make your complaint as soon as possible after it has been missing for 21 days.
If your luggage is delayed, the airline is liable to pay for damages up to $1,300 USD. You can benefit from a higher liability limit by making a special declaration before checking in your luggage, and by paying a supplementary fee.
Also, if your ticket states that you’re allowed to a fixed price for a reimbursement of lost luggage, make sure not to put valuable items in your checked bags in case they become lost. The airline will do its best to find delayed luggage, but don’t ask for too much in return if it’s ultimately lost. If the airline feels that it’s being ripped off, they can deny the whole claim. Be reasonable and ask for what you’ve lost. Airlines will only pay a fraction of it, and sentimental value has no price for the people who handle the claims. Each item lost must have a valued price. In the end, we received $2,000 in compensation for our lost luggage on our return flight from New Zealand to the United States.
With the knowledge you’ve acquired today, your bags are now ready for check-in. Enjoy your flight.