Traveling with a checked bag exposes you to one of travelers' greatest fear: losing their luggage. Airport infrastructures have trouble keeping up with the increase amount of traffic and it's not uncommon to have their luggage lost. Actually, it happened to me. That's probably why I like to travel with a backpack more than with a suitcase.
As I was standing next to the baggage claim, fellow passengers picked up their bags one after the other. A sense of panic started creeping in: “Where’s my bag??” It gradually escalated for 15 minutes until I was the last one next to the carousel and my bag still wasn't there. There I was, with a lost luggage.
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. It's called a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) 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. In any case, I hope you didn't overpack: you'd risk losing a lot of items at once!
What if your luggage is really lost?
Sometimes luggage does disappear, completely. If more than 21 days (3 weeks) have elapsed since your flight, then it will be officially declared as “lost”. The compensation amount is very different from what you can get for a delayed or canceled flight.
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.
Final Words on Lost Luggages
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.
A foolproof way of avoiding this is to travel with a carry-on only!
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