Knock on wood but I’ve never had to deal with lost luggage in all my travels. Sure, someone “borrowed” 50 dollars straight out of my backpack, one airport wanted to keep the only umbrella that is able to survive the British weather from me and another took down my luggage from the conveyor belt and had me fretting for an hour, but that was it. (I got everything back except the money.) But what if it DID happen and what if it just happened to you? Here’s what you should know about lost luggage.
Act instantly when you luggage is lost
You should wait around until there is no sign of your luggage on the conveyor belt but even then you can already ask a member of staff and to the lost and found. The umbrella I told you about was kept with them because it was that long, which wasn’t communicated to me when I checked it in. So I was lucky. If you are not, you have to instantly file a claim. Do not wait around, don’t clear your head and get home first. Do it now!
Try and get a copy of it and keep a record of who you spoke to and the time. You need to have proof of your steps because the paper trial you’ll face will be tough and tedious. Make it easier for yourself and harder for the airline to get out of this without your proper compensation. If there is no one at the lost and found or there isn’t one (there should be), head to the reservation or information desk. To file in the forms, have your name, flight details (date, time, number) ready and refer to them throughout all of your communication with the airline.
Keep at It
Don’t let the airline push you around. If you feel as if they are not taking your case seriously and don’t even reply, file a complaint about them as well, for instance with the National Enforcement Body in EU countries or Department of Transportation in the USA. There are institutions in place to ensure that customer rights are maintained and general rules complied to. Turn to them for help if you need to. They might also have great tips on how to proceed best. And who knows, there might be a lot of other cases like yours adding pressure to the airplane and the institution to act.
Another great (and possibly the best)way to gain attention is to revert back to social media. A tweet or public facebook post is harder to avoid than private mail correspondence. And you don’t even need to be a big shot to be heard as the airlines have a huge follower base and chances are a lot of them will see your tweet. Of course, the PR teams don’t want negative news to spread and answer almost immediately.
Know Your Rights
You have the right of compensation for damage, loss or delay. The specifics vary (check the back of your ticket) but for the EU the liability for baggage claims is limited to about €1,220. Furthermore, the deadline for filing your claim for damage is 7 days, for delay it is 21 days and for loss it’s 2 years. However, if your bags do go ‘missing’, the timing can be hard to prove, which is why it is advised to take photos of the luggage and its contents to show their value and be successful with your claim.
While arguing about the claims for the actual luggage, do not forget you also had to pay check-in fees. It might be worth a try to negotiate for getting the money back for this as well. A word of caution: While you know what is your due, you should still remain a sensible and polite human being. There is no point in going all emotional or even insulting over lost luggage. After all, the clerk you are talking to didn’t lose the bag and is there to help you. Keeping your sanity will be of great help to both you and your case. Another good ideas to check your home or travel insurance and credit cards if they cover such incidences.
Be Prepared for Lost Luggage
As said before, you always need to keep the flight and baggage details. Don’t throw away your ticket with the baggage sticker and don’t accidentally give it to the stewardess (occasionally the sticker ends up on the part that gets torn off). You might even be able to track your luggage with the code but a surer way to do so is by putting an actual tracking device in the bag, such as TrakDot.
If you face the problem of lost luggage and not having access to the things you need and brought, you unfortunately have to buy necessities, such as clothes or hygiene articles, or rent out equipment, keep in mind that airlines only provide cheap coverage (or pay only a percentage) and you need to tone down your budget. Another tip: some airline provide free sanitary bags with brushes and toothpaste, so it is a good idea to ask directly at the lost and found if your airline does.
The Best Way to Pack
In order to avoid all this trouble over lost luggage, the best way still is to travel with carry-on only (here is a suggested packing list), even tough that might seem daunting. If you pack it right (always roll!) and keep within the airline limits (always check as they vary a lot), then you can also enjoy the freedom of not having to cart around a big bulky case. Also, buying souvenirs and other things in the destination could be cheaper and sending a parcel home might still be a better deal than to pay for extra luggage, especially when it comes to budget airlines or long-term travel.
In any case, always keep the most valuable things close to you, which is your carry-on bag and possibly a small personal bag. The necessary things you absolutely need to include are passport, medication, any electronic equipment including chargers, money and tickets. Furthermore, keep a digital copy of your itinerary, booking numbers, tickets and official documents in a secret online folder, such as dropbox.