I mentioned some helpful things you can do when your travel plans go sideways in my blog last week. In case you missed it, you can read it HERE.
One of those tips has to do with lost luggage. I wanted to dive deeper this week into what to do if the airline loses your baggage. Better yet, learn how to avoid that happening in the first place!
Travel these days is a challenge, to say the least, and one of the critical risks to try to avoid is checking luggage. I’ve always been on “team carry-on” because I hate the stress and anxiety that comes with wondering if I’ll see it on the other side.
You may have seen on the news recently footage of vast numbers of carts full of lost luggage in large airports like London’s Heathrow or Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airports. It kind of makes you want to cram everything into your carry-on or second guess bringing those extra pairs of shoes you probably don’t need anyway, doesn’t it? According to a recent article in Forbes magazine:
“Among the worst shortages are at teams that handle baggage, resulting in a scourge of lost and misplaced suitcases this summer. On July 11, Delta flew an Airbus A330 from Heathrow to Detroit with no passengers and just 1,000 bags that had been lost.”
If you check your airline’s policy on their website, it should give you the details for their specific policies. Still, most will allow each passenger to bring a personal bag (backpack, purse, or briefcase) and a roller bag of a particular size. Again, look at the website for the specifics, as they are all different). Also, make sure there are no weight restrictions for carry-ons. I neglected doing this on a Frankfurt trip a few years back. Lufthansa informed me – too late to transfer things to my checked bag – that I was over the weight limit for a carry-on (yes, that is a “thing”).
If you need to check a bag, there are some things you can do ahead of time to minimize the pain of a lost suitcase. Ensure you take all essential items (passport, vaccination card, medications, electronics, and jewelry) in your carry-on luggage. If you are checking bags, try to pack an extra outfit or two in your carry-on in case your checked bags get misplaced for a couple of days. My husband and I pack outfits in each other’s checked bags. That way, if one bag gets lost and the other shows up, at least we can survive until the lost bag is found.
The moment you realize your bag is lost, you’ll want to:
• Find the airline baggage desk in the airport (typically in the baggage claim area). Do not leave without making a claim. If you don’t see your airline’s desk, call them so you can start the claim immediately, so they know it happened (this is a crucial step).
• Save any receipts for items purchased.
• File a claim with your travel insurance upon return (I’ll assist if you purchased it through my quote link or travel package).
Don’t check a standard black bag that looks like everyone else’s. Because if your bag ends up in a vast storage facility, it will be impossible to find it. If you don’t want to get a brightly colored bag, be sure to add a brightly-colored ribbon to your checked luggage and take a picture of it just in case you ever need to show the airline what it looks like.
One way to combat the luggage issue is to use a service like Luggage Free to ship your luggage ahead of you, so it is waiting for you when you arrive at your hotel.
While it isn’t foolproof, checking a bag on a non-stop flight reduces the chance of the airline losing it for obvious reasons. When connecting flights are unavoidable, make sure you allow ample time to get yourself (and your bag) to your connecting flight.
There is more than one location tracking device on the market, and my favorite is an Apple AirTag, so I always know my bag’s whereabouts. This way, I can show the airline approximately where my bag is, and when they find it, they can put it on the next flight to my destination rather than wait or, worse yet, never get them back. How does it work?? Track it on the “Find My” app on your iPhone, and you can tell the airline where your bag is located, speeding up the recovery process.
If you’re thinking ahead before your trip, you can sign up for the Blue Ribbon Bags (BRB) service. According to their site, for a nominal service fee (currently starting at $5/$1000 in coverage), they will “track and expedite the return of your lost bags for the first 96 hours of when you discover the bag as lost. If BRB can’t facilitate the return of the bag, they will pay a minimum of $1000 per bag, guaranteed, even if your bag shows up on the 5th day. No proof of what was in the bag (receipts) is necessary to receive payment. All US and International flights are covered with this service, including all codeshare partners and connections. One service agreement ($5) protects every bag taken on the plane, including last-minute check-ins at the gate.” If you are interested in this service, I can help you! I’ll bet they are pretty busy these days!
Travel insurance will help you to recoup some or all of your losses on a delayed or canceled trip. It can also be super helpful if your luggage is lost. Policies vary by provider, but you can typically expect reimbursement for necessities like clothes and a toothbrush when your bag is delayed and for lost luggage. It might even cover your bag if it is stolen from your rental car. Your credit card may protect lost or delayed bags if you use it to purchase your flight, so check your card’s benefits.
If your luggage is still lost, damaged, or delayed by an airline, it’s important to know your rights as a consumer. Under US Department of Transportation regulations (for domestic travel) and international treaties (for international travel), airlines must compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed, or lost. In DOT’s Fly Rights publication, you can find tips on how to pack, check-in, and claim your luggage to minimize the chance of damage, delay, or loss.
Hope you found this helpful! If you are looking to start planning an adventure, reach out to us HERE. We’d love to design your next vacation.
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