The Airline has lost, delayed or damaged your luggage….What do you do now?

Before checking your baggage, rip off any old baggage tags another airline may have put on your bags — big tags looped around a handle with old flight info on ’em. (I also figure that if baggage handlers don’t have to tear off my backpack’s baggage tags from the last flight, that’s a little less time my bag‘s literally being handled, lessening damage opportunities.) I also change the elasticized tag to that of my current airline; I have no idea if this helps, but it makes me feel better.

Baggage Art

Baggage Art (Photo credit: aresauburn™)

If your bags are delayed, try not to panic. The airlines typically have ways to track them, and about 99 percent of all misplaced luggage is returned eventually. If your bags are on the next flight, you could have them within a few hours. If they’ve been sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days.

In the case of stolen bags, many airlines scan bags when they’re loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records, especially at larger airports. If your bag goes missing after you’ve left the baggage claim area, your claim is no longer with the airline, but with the police. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover a stolen suitcase; if it doesn’t, consider purchasing travel insurance.

Once you’ve gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check them for damage or other signs of tampering or mishandling. Report any damage before leaving the airport; airline customer service will often want to inspect the bag. Keep in mind that most airlines won’t cover minor wear and tear. You will most likely need to produce a receipt for any repairs, or be required to use airline-sanctioned luggage repair vendors. Ask the baggage claim attendant for specific information. You don’t want to find out that you have paid for a repair that it isn’t covered.

The most common mistake many people make is to leave the Airport. It was a long flight, they’re tired and frustrated when their bag does not appear and they decide to go home or to the hotel, get some sleep and deal with it in the morning. Stay at the airport and make the report. This is especially true if you have a complaint about a damaged bag. If you leave, the airline will just make you come back with the broken suitcase, and there might even be questions about whether the bag was somehow damaged after it left the airport.  Try not to scream or yell at the employees. It’s human nature for folks to try harder to help the “good guys” so be sure you’re one of them. Why do anything to jeopardize your chances of getting your bag back?

Be persistent, be proactive and be polite. Reference your official lost bag claim number in all correspondence and if you are using e-mail, be brief and to the point; include all pertinent information such as dates and flight numbers. Stay on the case.

Do not pack valuables in a checked bag. Put them in a carry-on, or better yet, on your person. Best of all, leave them at home. Here’s why: many airlines officially don’t accept certain valuables in checked bags. Sure, people still pack these things, but if anything happens to them, it’s not the airline’s problem. So leave great-grandmother’s homemade quilt home. If it gets lost, you won’t be compensated.

Here’s a few simplified tips that may help:

1. Put your name on the outside and inside of your bags. Even better, put a copy of your itinerary in each checked bag so the airline can locate you.

2. The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late check-ins and tight connections. Avoid both when you can.

3. Pack all valuables in your carry-on bags. Cameras, computers, medication, wallets, heirlooms, jewelry, passports, as well as confirmation numbers, itineraries, contact information and other documents necessary to your travel should never be in your checked baggage.

4. Itemize. It sounds tedious, but when an airline asks what was in your bag, you don’t want to forget anything of value. If you make a packing list before you travel, hang onto it — this is an easy way to remember everything you put into your bags.

luggage baggage airplane plane handling5. Make sure the person who checks your baggage attaches the correct destination ticket to every bag, and get a claim ticket for each.

6. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on bag so that you’ll have something to wear if your checked bag is delayed. If you’re traveling with a partner, consider spreading each person’s clothes between your checked bags; this way if one of the bags is lost, you’ll each still have some of your belongings.

7. Travel insurance is the best guarantee that you’ll recoup any losses. Visit our website or email us for more information. (

8. Consider using a baggage tagging service such as SuperSmartTag or ReboundTAG.  These services offer luggage tags with unique serial numbers that can be linked to the suitcase owner via an online database. The site will contact you as soon as your lost item is found. (An annual fee applies.)

If you still can’t get satisfaction, or feel the need to report the airline, contact the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

Finally, I found out that where lost bags go after they die………!

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9 thoughts on “The Airline has lost, delayed or damaged your luggage….What do you do now?

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