Lost luggage is one of the most common fears when traveling. It’s the reason we overstuff a carry-on bag, why we’re afraid to check that carry-on bag and why we hand-carry electronics and important items onboard planes. According to SITA, 5.57 bags per 1000 passengers were mishandled in 2017. However, 79% of mishandled bags tend to be delayed as opposed to lost. Losing luggage is more likely to happen on connecting flights than on direct flights. So, what are the best ways to avoid losing checked bags and if they are lost, what are the key actions to take?
Avoid losing a checked bag
There are many ways to minimize your chances of losing a bag. Here are eight good habits to adopt:
- Remove all bag tags from previous flights. Traditionally, the check-in clerk used to ensure these were removed, but with self-bag drops, we need to be diligent about it ourselves.
- Before affixing the new tag to your bag, check that the destination airport code is correct.
- Most bags are black so it’s easy for someone else to mistakenly pick up your bag thinking it’s theirs. When you buy a new bag, choose a color or pattern that’s not as common. If you are using a black bag, add a decal, ribbon or colorful baggage strap to it for easy identification.
- Affix two ID tags to the outside of your bag. If one ID gets ripped off, the second will still identify you. On the tags, include your mobile phone number and contact info for both your home and your travel destination/hotel. To avoid confusion, clearly mark which contact is home and which is your destination.
- Place an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper with the destination address inside your bag on top of all packed items.
- Create a list of what’s included in your bag. One list goes into the bag and the other list stays with you.
- Take a picture of your luggage in case you need to show the airline representative.
- Think of what you’d need for the first 24 hours you’re at your destination and pack those items in a carry-on. Keep valuables and medications with you in a carry-on bag.
Lost or delayed luggage
If your bag is lost or delayed, these eight tips can help.
- Report your missing bag right away. Do it as soon as you notice the carousel is finished unloading luggage from your flight.
- You should already have the list of items that you included in your checked bag, but consider if there are other items (toiletries, etc) that you’ll need. Be sure to mention them at the counter. Sometimes the airline will keep basic toiletries and are happy to give them to you. Otherwise, you will need to ask about their reimbursement policy for the items you will purchase on your own.
- Keep all receipts from items you purchase as well as your bag claim stubs (or a copy of) and your ticket receipt.
- If you paid extra for the checked bag, request a refund from the airline. Even consider requesting a refund if the bag is delayed.
- If you used a credit card to book the flight or pay for your checked bag, that card may offer reimbursement for necessary items included in the lost or delayed bag.
- Before leaving the customer service counter, get a phone number you can use to call to check the status of your bag.
- If your bag is declared ‘lost’ by the carrier, you need to file a claim. The airline is required to compensate you for the bag and its contents. That’s where your list of items in the bag is useful.
- Check with the airline to find out how to request reimbursement and be prepared to wait awhile for reimbursement – sometimes as long as a month.
Fortunately, with new technology, it’s less likely airlines will lose your luggage. In 2017 carriers recorded the lowest number of mishandled bags on record. Recently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) required digital tracking on all bags. These new requirements cover 82% of passengers and 290 worldwide airlines.
As numbers of travelers increase year after year, it’s exciting to know that incidents of lost luggage will continue to decrease! Until lost luggage counts are at zero, it’s wise to understand what to do to avoid losing a bag and to know what to do if you do lose a bag.
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