What Happened to my Luggage?

Have you ever stood at an airport baggage carousel for what seemed like forever and found that your bag was nowhere to be seen?  Have you ever picked up your luggage and had it look like the plane ran over it on the runway?  Who is responsible when your baggage is lost, stolen, or damaged?

Many times when your luggage doesn’t show up on the carousel, it is delayed, not lost.  Mistakes can be made and sometimes your luggage actually arrives on a later flight.  Occasionally, it can actually end up at a different airport.  However, the good news is that the airlines are pretty good at tracking it, and about 98% of the time, it will be returned to you, even if it takes a couple of days.  Of course, this is a major inconvenience, but most of the airlines will reimburse you for expenses caused by the delay.  Just make sure that you keep all of your receipts.  If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to report it immediately.  Do not leave the airport without making sure that you know the status of your luggage and you have given the airlines a phone number and hotel address.

What if your bags are indeed lost and never show up?  You must make sure that you complete the proper paperwork required by the airlines and that you get a written claim for your luggage.  Most of the time this can be done while you are at the airport.  When requesting a lost baggage claim, you will be asked to produce receipts to prove the value of the items you had in your suitcase.  You will send these receipts to the airline with a copy of your claim.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind.  The airline won’t pay you the full amount on the receipts that you provide; you will receive a depreciated value of your items.  Also, there are certain items that the airlines will not be responsible for, such as, jewelry, money, and other valuables.  These kind of items should always be packed in your carry on bag.  If you have some reason to suspect that your bag was stolen, make sure you report it before you leave the baggage claim area.

What can you do about bags that show up damaged?  As soon as you retrieve your luggage from the carousel, inspect it immediately for signs of  damage, mishandling, or tampering.  Report any damage immediately, because the airline will want to inspect your bag themselves.  Keep in mind that you will not be reimbursed for what the airlines consider to be standard wear and tear.

There are several things that you can do before your flight that will help prevent these inconvenient situations.

  • Avoid late check-ins and very tight connections.  These situations cause the most delays in baggage.
  • When you pack for your trip at home, make a list of what you put in your bag.  Although this is a hassle, you must be able to let the airlines know what you had when you make a claim.
  • Make sure your name is on the outside of your bag, and put a copy of your itinerary in each checked bag so that the airline can find you if necessary.
  • Pack all valuables in your carry-on bag, along with medications, wallets, cameras, computers, passports, copies of itinerary and all other necessary travel documents.  You should also pack one change of clothes just in case your bags are delayed.
  • Finally, when you check your bags at the airport, watch carefully and make sure that the attendant attaches the correct destination to your bag.  Get a baggage claim ticket and make sure that you keep it with your other documents.

Hopefully, these things will never happen to you, but just to be on the safe side, consider purchasing travel insurance.  This is the best guarantee that you will be reimbursed to your satisfaction.  You should also know that if you fail to get satisfaction from the airline, you can contact the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division for additional help.  The address is http://airconsumer.dot.gov/.  And if all else fails, check www.unclaimedbaggage.com.  You never know what you may find!

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