How To Deal With Lost Luggage
Losing your luggage is one of the worst things that can happen during a trip. Of course, terrorist attacks, airplane accidents and natural disasters top the list of possible negatives, but having the airline lose your bag is a much, much more likely than any of these major disasters. If you have the right combination (or wrong combination) of poor airport baggage facilities and poor baggage handling employees and procedures, the percentage of luggage lost can get as high as 1%. Of course, a vast majority of these lost suitcases are found quickly, but most baggage mishandling victims have to go a few hours or a day or two without their suitcase.
99% (99.8% for most major carriers) of bags are handled successfully. Those are pretty good odds if you are a gambler. But not if you are expecting your necessities to drop onto the baggage claim carousel. You will sorely miss that suit that you brought for your business presentation or your allergy medicine that you put in your checked luggage to avoid having confiscated at security (not to mention your underwear and your socks). It will all come back into your possession eventually (only a small portion of the over two million bags mishandled by domestic airlines in the US are actually lost completely), but in the mean time, what are you supposed to do? Complaining to the lost baggage desk employee might feel good. But it probably won’t help. These people are pretty much paid to stand their and take abuse while reciting their employer’s lost baggage policy and promising a swift return of the luggage.
Here is how to proceed if you bag has been lost and how to lessen the chances that it will be lost in the first place.
First of all, you can truly prepare by making sure that any real valuables are not placed in your checked baggage. Necessary medications, valuables and travel documents are good candidates for your carry-on bag. Any collectors items or non-replaceable items should either be insured or carried with you on the plane. Also, make sure that your bag is properly labeled with your name and address. Make sure that the label is secured to the bag. You can even consider putting your information on the inside of your bag as well in case the tag falls off the outside.
It is good to check and make sure that you have all the information when you check your bag. Confirm that you have one baggage claim stub for each bag that you have checked. These small slips of paper are very important, especially if you have to report your bag lost.
What if you arrive at the baggage claim area and are not able to locate your bag?
First of all, don’t panic. A vast majority of baggage that is delayed is returned to the passenger within a day or two. Sometimes the wait is only a few hours.
If your bag is lost, proceed to the baggage claim counter for the airline that you flew. Tell them you situation and ask them to make a report. Despite the obvious frustration that everyone who has to report lost baggage feels, it is much better to be calm when dealing with the airline employee who will make the report and try to locate your bag. The process will go smoother and faster if you are non-confrontational. Make sure that you get a copy of the report that the employee makes and that all necessary contact information has been given.
Airlines will usually reimburse you for any necessities that you have to purchase before your bag can be returned. Of course, their definition of necessities might not be the same as yours. Still, most airlines will at least give you enough to purchase emergency toiletries and clothes. You may be able to negotiate for a higher payout, depending on your circumstances. If there is something that you absolutely need (your suit for your business presentation, for example), let the employee know. If they are not willing to negotiate, ask for a supervisor or use your cell phone to call the airline (you didn’t pack your cell phone in your checked bag, did you?). If you really have a necessity that is not being addressed, keep trying until you are able to get a hold of someone who is sympathetic to your plight.