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Dealing with Lost Luggage

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Checked Luggage

My Luggage is Lost!

Oh-no, the carousel has stopped and your luggage is no where to be seen. DO NOT PANIC! Now it is time to make a luggage claim and hopefully it can be found.

Thousands of passenger luggage are mishandled ("temporarily lost") by the airline industry every day. If you have had your luggage lost, then you want to be reunited with your luggage quickly and expect the problems to be addressed as efficiently as possible, whether by airport authorities, ground handlers or airline representatives. The airline industry realizes that passenger loyalty at this difficult time is low and it is crucial that they work quickly and in a flexible way to meet passenger demands and regain that loyalty. Rest assured that about 98% of lost luggage is recovered.

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The Missing Luggage Process

IATA Baggage Chart
  • Head over to the claim area. This most likely is a counter maintained by the airline or their partners (typically alliance partners will use each other's counters).

  • Have your claim tags available as they will need to enter the information off them.

  • Have a description of your luggage. Most airlines will use the IATA Baggage Chart (right) to code your luggage by type, colour, and any other features. If you have a photo, then all the better.

  • Also have your contact details available, such as where you will be for the next few days and any numbers or email addresses they can reach you at.

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What to Expect at the Luggage Claim Counter

  • Usually re-assurance that your luggage will appear.

  • They should be able to tell you where your luggage made it to as it is scanned each time it goes through an airport.

  • They usually will place your luggage on the next available flight, although for international destinations this might be 24 hours later.

  • They will give you a claim report, which will outline some the details about lost luggage.

  • They will give you a telephone number that you can call to check the status of your luggage. In addition, many of the airlines offer an online tracking system, such as WorldTracer: http://www.worldtracer.aero/filedsp/XX.htm (replace the XX with the 2 digit airline code, e.g., 'lh' for Lufthansa, 'ac' for Air Canada, 'ba' for British Airways, and so on).

  • They may offer you a toiletry kit or something similar to get you through the night, although you may need to ask for this. Alternatively they may offer you vouchers that may be used in the airport to buy a few items, but again you may need to ask (these rules do not apply if your luggage has been lost on your homeward bound trip).

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What the Airline Will Do

  • They will provide updates on your luggage status when you contact them.

  • They will deliver your luggage to you, regardless of where you are. If you have a connecting flight the next day, they will make arrangements to get the luggage to you without any expense to you. You will rarely need to return to the airport to claim your luggage. They obviously will not deliver to a cruise ship that has already left port though, but they may deliver the luggage to the next port of call if you know when that will be.

  • They will likely reimburse you either a fixed daily rate or for 'reasonable expenses'. This may not kick in for up to 48 hours after you reported the missing luggage.

  • They will also provide details of making a claim should your luggage never turn up, for which they will provide a written claim for lost baggage.

In addition, you may opt to take out extra insurance on your luggage in case of loss or damage. Many credit cards offer an insurance policy on luggage if the entire air portion was purchased using the card, but read the terms and conditions carefully to see what you are entitled to and how long you have to claim.

Written by Steve Romaine


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