You get off your flight and head straight to the baggage carousel. You wait with the rest of the passengers for your luggage to drop, and then it happens — the carousel stops, and your bags aren’t there. What do you do?
Go over to the airline’s baggage claim office and file a claim immediately. Make sure you give the agent the claim ticket, email them a photo of your lost luggage and get a copy of the report. It’s also good to write down the name of the baggage agent and get a specific phone number (not the airline’s general information number) to call to follow up on the progress for your baggage search. Also give the airline an address where they can deliver your luggage once it’s found.
Every airline gives you a copy of your luggage tag, and you should hang onto it. Travelers should also have a photo of their luggage and a list of items that have been packed (I use the Packing Pro iPhone app, which costs $2.99).
When my luggage was lost, I asked for money to buy a few essential items.
If they decline, get a list of items they will reimburse you for and remember — keep receipts of everything you buy. Keep checking in on the status of your bag.If your bag arrives, check immediately after it’s delivered to make sure it hasn’t been damaged and that none of your items are missing. If your bag is damaged or items are missing, ask the airline to pay for repairs and lost items. If the bag can’t be fixed, negotiate to be reimbursed for the damages. Also negotiate to be reimbursed for missing items.
But if the worst happens and your luggage is declared officially lost (usually after a week), submit a more detailed form to the airline that will estimate the value of the items in your baggage. According to the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement, the maximum you can receive from an airline for a lost bag and its contents is $3,300 per passenger on domestic flights, and $1,131 per passenger for checked baggage on international flights.
If that amount doesn’t cover everything that was lost, check your homeowners or renters insurance to see if your items are covered. And most credit cards have automatic baggage coverage if you bought your airline ticket on one.
Make sure your bag has a tag with your name, phone number and email address. Also drop a business card (with contact information to your destination city) inside your luggage just in case the tag is torn off.
Finally, don’t check in at the last minute, because your bag may not make it on the flight. Double check that you receive a claim check for every checked bag, and keep them until you receive all of your luggage. And make sure your bags are properly tagged to the correct city, and remove old bag tags. For more information on baggage rules, click here.