It’s always a tense time when you arrive at the luggage carousel and wait for your suitcase to appear, particularly when it seems like everyone else on the plane has been and gone. Usually though it eventually trundles around the carousel to be reunited with your waiting arms.
When the airlines are handling thousand pieces of luggage every day however, unfortunately, there will be times when your luggage goes AWOL and gets delayed or worse, lost altogether.
So, what to do if your luggage gets lost?
If this happens to you and your luggage doesn’t appear on the carousel, remember to remain calm and locate a member of airport staff who will direct you to your airline’s desk where you can file a report. You will need to provide your contact telephone number as well as hotel or home address. When your luggage is located, it will usually be delivered to you directly.
If your luggage is delayed
Airlines are given 21 days to locate your luggage and return it to you during which time your luggage will be classified as delayed.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any set guidelines or rules for how your airline is obliged to help you during this period. That said, they should offer you some form of assistance with regards to emergency expenses. They may provide you with a one off payment enabling you to buy emergency clothes and toiletries. Alternatively, they may opt to pay you a set amount for each day your suitcase is delayed or agree to reimburse you for any costs incurred as a result. In case of the latter scenario, you would be required to keep all of your receipts.
To find out what procedure your airline adopts, you will need to contact them directly, either at the airport or on the phone.
If your luggage is lost
If you have been without your luggage for more than 21 days, your luggage will now be classified as lost. If this happens, you will need to submit a written claim for damages and loss where you will need to document all of the items in your luggage and provide original receipts wherever possible.
To do this, you will usually be required to complete a different form. Contact your airline directly for more information and to obtain a copy of the correct paperwork.
It is worth noting that unless everything is brand new, you are unlikely to be reimbursed the full amount it would cost to replace your possessions as the airline will account for wear and tear.
In this instance it is worth checking both your travel insurance and home contents insurance policies as you may be able to recoup more money.
If your luggage gets lost or delayed on a connecting flight
If you have a connecting flight with one airline and your baggage is lost during transit, you will need to follow the same procedures outlined above. If however you have a connecting flight which is operated by two separate airlines, you will usually need to contact the operator of the last aeroplane you boarded. Should the airlines oppose responsibility, you are advised to contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
If your cabin baggage gets lost
Unfortunately there is very little you can do if your cabin bag gets lost as this is your responsibility. You will only be able to claim for loss of your hand luggage from your airline if it is their fault.
Preventative Measures and Handy Tips
Unfortunately, there will always be times when bags are misplaced or lost either as a result of human error or malfunctioning computer software so you will never be able to completely prevent it from happening. With a few of these handy tips however, you can reduce the risk and make the experience less stressful should it happen to you.
Adding a luggage tag to your suitcase is relatively standard practice but when was the last time you updated it? Be sure to check the information held within the tag every time you travel and update your details accordingly. It is also worth labelling your luggage on the inside, in case the tag comes loose.
Try to keep expensive or irreplaceable items in your hand baggage if at all possible.
Prepare for all eventualities and consider packing a change of clothes and toothbrush in your hand luggage. In a worst case scenario, this will mean you can tide yourself over for at least one night without your full luggage.
Travel insurance does often cover for lost luggage but there can be restrictions so be sure to read the terms and conditions properly before buying, whilst ensuring that the sum you are insured for will aptly cover the cost of your possessions.