What to do if the airline lost your luggage?

As I stand next to the baggage claim, fellow passengers pick up their bags one after the other, a sense of panic starts creeping in: “Where’s my bag??” It gradually escalades for 15 minutes until I am the last one next to the carousel and my bag still isn’t there. It’s lost.

If you made it to your destination, but your bag didn’t, I won’t lie - it sucks. But don’t panic and consider these steps.

File a lost luggage claim

You must file a lost luggage claim right away. Some people assume that just because they have a luggage tag indicating their temporary and/or permanent address, their bag will be delivered automatically. The airline won’t look or take any steps to deliver your bag unless you’ve filed a formal claim.
Find the lost luggage office of the airport or the airline representative and request to file a lost luggage claim. Add as much detail as possible in your luggage description - type of bag, colour and any other distinctive features. Once you’ve filed your claim, most airlines will provide you with a reference number which will help you verify its status online. Depending on how long it takes to trace your luggage, certain airlines could reimburse you for essential items which you had to purchase - this policy varies so before going on a shopping spree, inform yourself with a representative.

Lost luggage

Sometimes luggage does disappear, completely. If more than 30 days have elapsed since your flight, then it will be officially declared as “lost”. In these unfortunate cases, you are entitled to a lost luggage compensation which is capped at $1,750 or the equivalent in the applicable currency. The amount of compensation could be higher if you’ve purchased additional coverage. To claim lost luggage compensation, you must provide the airline with a detailed description of your items and support it with receipts. That’s the tricky part - if you are like me and don’t keep any receipts ever, then the airline technically could refuse your claim, especially if you’re going after the maximum amount. However, most airlines have an idea of what’s “reasonable” and in certain cases - where your claim ends in court, the judge may rule in your favour even if you haven’t kept all your receipts.

Having the airline lose your luggage is definitely worse than having your flight delayed. The good news is that in most cases, it is never “officially lost”, but the time it takes to have it delivered is certainly annoying.