You’re standing at the baggage carousel and all of the bags have been collected, but yours hasn’t shown up. You’re pretty sure no one else has taken it either. So how do you go about tracking lost luggage?
First of all, don’t panic. Statistically the chance of your luggage being lost or delayed is around 1%. This means you will most likely find your luggage quickly. (Only about 4 in 10,000 people who have lost their luggage won’t ever recover it.)
Check Other Baggage Carousels
Sometimes luggage gets sorted onto the wrong baggage carousel after being unloaded. So the first thing you should do is check other baggage carousels of arriving flights.
If it still can’t be found continue to find the Airport Baggage Services counter at the airport. This should be located close to or within the baggage claim area.
Report Lost Luggage To Airline
At the counter, report your lost luggage directly to the airline. This report is called a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) and it will have to be lodged with the airline who was the carrier for all of your flight or the last part of it.
Fill out the claim as much as you can.
This means that many times your luggage will be checked through to your destination, but there are maybe two or three different flight carriers, i.e. airlines. You will have to contact the airline which operated the last part of your flight.
If you were flying direct without stopovers, this does not apply to you, as there was only one carrier/airline.
Sometimes reclaiming your lost luggage can take a bit longer, especially if it was an international flight due to difference in flight duration, frequency of flights and customs processes in each of the destination/stop over airports.
The good thing about reporting your lost or delayed luggage promptly is that you might have it back with you within a few hours.
Once your luggage has been found, baggage services will contact you to figure out the best way of reuniting you with your luggage, be it collection or delivery thereof.
You can check the status of your luggage online.
Many times you will be able to check the status of your luggage online after you have made a claim.
Give A Detailed Description
When you file your claim, make sure you describe your luggage in detail so it will be easy to locate it. What is the colour and size of the luggage?
Is it hardsided, softsided, is it a suitcase, or a backpack or are there several pieces missing? (If for example you and your partner are both missing your luggage you probably will have to file two separate claims.)
Does your luggage have a luggage strap or something that will make it stand out from other luggage?
Also make a detailed list of the contents of your luggage in case it has been damaged, torn open or in the worst case, it has been stolen or destroyed.
It will help baggage services greatly if you have your checked baggage ticket from when you checked in, as well as your boarding pass, as there is some tracking information which will speed up the process of finding your luggage.
You will also need to provide them with your contact details, i.e. phone number and where you will be staying at.
Make sure to get a copy of your claim and baggage tag number.
Ask For Overnight Kit / Reimbursement For Essentials
Many times airlines offer overnight kits which contain essentials such as toiletries and an oversized shirt to sleep in. This is especially the case when you have only just arrived at your destination. You don’t exactly need an overnight kit if you’ve arrived home from holidays.
You might have to ask for the overnight kit as not every airline will offer it automatically.
Some of the essentials you might receive in an overnight kit.
If they don’t offer an overnight kit the airlines might offer reimbursement for essentials. Be sure to ask what they reimburse and what the maximum reimbursement would be. Make sure to keep receipts for any items you purchase as you will need those to claim your reimbursement.
Time Limits To Claims
There are certain time limits that apply to reporting/claiming lost/delayed or damaged luggage. These differ depending on the airlines, so make sure to check the time limits as soon as possible.
The best option would be to report it straight away. This might also help in recovering lost or delayed luggage quicker and in getting reimbursement for damaged luggage sooner.
Usually the maximum amount of time to claim for lost luggage will be 21 days. Make sure to check what the individual time limits are with your airline as they might be shorter.
For example, claiming for damaged luggage on a domestic flight might have to be within 3 days.
How Long Does It Usually Take To Find Lost Luggage?
Usually it takes airlines between one and two days to reunite you with your luggage. Many times your luggage gets lost due to mishandling during transfer. This is good news for you as it means your luggage will be returned to you.
If your luggage still hasn’t been found after 14 to 21 days (it depends on the airline) then it is officially lost.
Do Airlines Usually Find Lost Luggage?
The good news is that most of the luggage will be found and returned to their owner, which means it’s not really lost, but mostly just delayed.
Only about 3% of lost luggage won’t ever be recovered.
How Do I Get Lost Luggage Compensation?
As mentioned above, the first thing you should do is report your luggage to be lost or delayed and fill out a Property Irregularity Report. Once the luggage hasn’t been recovered for 21 days (this time limit might differ between airlines), it becomes officially lost.
Now you file a compensation claim for lost luggage with the airline. There should be a form to fill out on their website.
Fill out the claim without exaggeration.
This is where your itemised report of content which you reported with the PIR comes in handy. Make sure to claim for reasonable expenses as airlines will be on the lookout for exaggeration.
How Much Can I Claim For Lost Luggage?
Usually you can claim back expenses, such as when you have to buy essential clothing items or toiletry items. This is something you can check with airline when you report the missing luggage.
Also, if your luggage has been damaged you might be able to get money back for repair or you might receive a replacement.
Usually you won’t receive the full amount of what the item was worth when you bought it (even if you only just bought it). You will most likely only receive an estimated amount for a used item.
There are certain limits that apply for international carriage, which are covered (for many airlines or participating countries) by the Montreal Convention 1999.
Some limits can be quite different depending on what country you were traveling in and whether the travel was domestic or international.
For example the maximum amount to be claimed back in the US under the Montreal Convention is between $1,525 and $3,500. You might need receipts to be given reimbursement.
Check Your Credit Card For Insurance
If you have paid for your holiday with your credit card, many times you get insurance cover for lost luggage and also associated expenses, such as having to buy essentials (toiletries and clothing) until your luggage arrives.
This might be the way to go should you ever lose your luggage or should it be delayed, as it might be easier or quicker to be reimbursed and the insured amount might be higher than what you can get back from the airline.
How Can I Prevent Luggage Getting Lost?
There are many ways to prevent your luggage ever getting lost (and most luggage won’t ever be lost or even delayed).
Hopefully the above steps will help you to recover your lost luggage quickly. Should your luggage be lost, make sure to follow the steps to be reimbursed.
Remember to report lost luggage straight away at the airport.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions and I will be sure to get back to you soon!
Safe and happy travels!