While travelling, your baggage contains everything you need. Naturally, if your bag is missing, stolen or damaged, it can cause you serious distress. Knowing what to do to avoid these situations, and proactively handle them if they do occur, can be a saving grace.
When Preparing for Your Trip
There are several ways that you can take preventative measures against lost or stolen bags before your trip begins.
- Your name should be clearly written and visible on the inside and outside of each bag.
- Contact information should also be visible, written in any relevant languages to your place of travel.
- Placing an itinerary in each checked bag can help them be brought back to you, in the case of a loss.
- Avoid booking routes with quick connections, and be sure to avoid late check-ins for flights. These situations make baggage loss more likely.
- Keep any valuables – electronics, cash, passports, jewelry, heirlooms, medications, etc. – in your carry-on bag.
- Keep your packing list on hand in your carry-on. If your bag is lost and you must file a claim, it is useful to know the exact contents so nothing is forgotten.
- Keep a change of clothes in your carry-on, and if you are travelling with a partner, consider splitting your packing between bags. This way, if one bag is lost, you will still have some of your possessions right away.
- Lock your bags – this will deter possible thieves to a simpler target.
- Consider investing in bag-tag technology, which can locate your missing bags via an online database.
- Be sure you have adequate travel insurance. This is the only way to ensure you are compensated properly for any loss or damages.
At the Airport
- When you arrive at the airport, be sure the baggage check attendants attach the correct destination to each of your bags. Be sure you have been given a claim ticket for every item of luggage.
- When you reach your destination airport, be sure to go to the baggage claim carousel as soon as possible. This reduces the likelihood of your bags being stolen, as there is less of a time frame to do so.
If Your Luggage Is Lost
- The first step is not to panic. Many missing bags are returned to their owners. The time this takes may vary, however. If the bag has been placed on the wrong flight, it may be several hours. If it has been sent to the wrong airport, this may mean several days.
- If your bag is missing, immediately find a baggage attendant and ask them where to go to file a missing bags claim. Do not leave the airport and assume this can be done the next day or by phone. Often, travellers will do this if they are tired from their trip, but it makes the process much more complex.
- Be sure to give the airline a reliable contact for you, as well as a home or hotel address. This way, when the bag is found, it can be returned quickly. Most airlines will bring the bag directly to you, versus asking you to return to the airport.
- Many airlines will reimburse costs you incur while waiting for your lost bag if you keep your receipts. Ask the airline representative you speak to prior to leaving the airport if this is applicable, and if so, whether it will affect any reimbursement you may receive if the bag is not found.
- Be sure you know how to check on the status of your bag, before departing the airport. Some airlines have online systems, while others will provide you with a phone number to call.
- If the bag is truly lost, get a written claim for the losses incurred. This may be a different form than you were originally required to fill out. This can usually be done either at the airport or by mail.
- Check your airline carrier's website for its policy on reimbursements. Usually, you will be reimbursed up to a certain limit for any lost possessions, minus specialty items, and taking into consideration depreciated value since each purchase.
Damaged or Stolen Bags
- If you suspect your bag has been stolen, report this to the airline immediately. If your bag is stolen past the baggage claim area, your first point of contact should be the police.
- If you locate your bag and it appears to have been tampered with, proceed with extreme caution. Do not hesitate to contact security if you are concerned.
- Once you have ruled out safety concerns, check your bag for damages, tampering or mishandling. Make note of any, and file a report before you leave the airport. Usually, a customer service representative will ask to inspect the bag and document the damages.
- Minor wear and tear damage is normally not covered, and is assumed to be a by-product of travel.
- Any repairs made will require a receipt to be presented for reimbursement, or to be done by an airline-sanctioned luggage repair service.
- Be sure you have asked the baggage claim attendant for specific repair information prior to getting any repairs done. This will help you avoid paying for things that may not be covered.
- Be proactive but polite with airline and airport staff.
Above all – remain calm, keep any receipts for expenses incurred, and act as soon as you realize your bag is missing. If you have prepared yourself with proper insurance, you are in a good place, and your missing possessions will either be found or covered.