Lost your baggage? What should you do?

Have you experienced flying to India from the US, only to find your luggage went to Europe?
Well, that’s a bit exaggerated. But that’s not impossible. It happens to connecting flights and it is sure to ruin an otherwise pleasurable flight.

You’ve connected seamlessly. You’ve arrived at your destination. You feel relieved to have arrived in one piece. Unfortunately, you should have arrived with another piece – your luggage! Whatever happened to “passenger should fly with his bags” policy?

Whatever it is that went wrong, it’s likely something beyond our control as passengers. We focus on what we can do. Upon finding out that your baggage didn’t make it like you did, do the following:

Report to the airline’s service desk. It’s usually right there at the arrival hall. You will be asked to fill out a form. Give them your contact info such as telephone, email and most importantly, your address. If you are visiting, give them your hotel address.

What will the airline do afterwards? They’d do their best to figure out where your luggage went to and deliver it to you within 24 hrs. If it’s misrouted to a nearby airport, they should be able to deliver it to you sooner. But if it flew transpacific or transatlantic, then it is likely to take days for them to recover your goods. Sometimes, we may have to give up all hopes. But not after you’ve done all that you can do.

Do I get any compensation from the airline? It depends on the policy of the airline. Airlines usually provide an overnight kit just to get by for a night. The kit may contain toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, and so on) plus an extra shirt. Some airlines are more generous than others. In fact, some airlines may reimburse you in case you decide to purchase some necessities from the grocery. Some airlines will compensate you with few extra thousands of miles credit on top of the other provisions. And you normaly get a letter of apology too.

Do I get any compensation from the insurance company? Yes. Delay or loss of luggage is covered by most comprehensive travel insurance plans. Make sure you read the insurance policy document. The thought of uncertainties during flights, gives us more reason to get a travel insurance when traveling overseas. Ask the airline desk for a proof of the loss or delay. This will serve as documentation to be submitted to the insurance agency. The same process applies when your luggage was damaged due to mishandling (not your own doing, of course). And remember to file for claim as soon as possible. You travel agent should be able to help out with the process.

What if my bags were lost? It’s a possibility. If that happens, report to the airline’s service desk immediately before leaving the terminal. The airline will need to compensate you with a certain amount. Again, each airline has different policies regarding this. The travel insurance also covers for this and shall pay you with few hundreds of dollars after submission of required documentation. That is, if you have travel insurance.

IMPORTANT! Do not leave the arrival hall without reporting any problem. May that be a busted zipper, or missing bag. I once made a mistake of not reporting my broken luggage. When I got home, I found out that some gift items are missing.

Real life experience:

Lost luggage returned

Delta to Houston, Texas back in summer of 2010. The flight is originally to land in Bush-Intercontinental Airport (IAH) from Detroit (DTW). Due to a storm, the flight was cancelled. Had to sleep overnight at the Detroit airport. Eventually, I was able to rebook a flight to Houston-Hobby (HOB), but this time, via Atlanta (ATL). I will have to arrive a day later at destination. No problem!

The problem was, I flew to Hobby but my luggage flew hours earlier to Intercon, about an hour drive away north of the city. I followed the tips above and provided my contact details and address to the customer service desk. I was given an overnight kit of toiletries, plus a neat white Delta shirt. The following morning, during buffet breakfast at the hotel, a couple of Delta flight officers were throwing glances my way. Then I figured my Delta shirt is way too big for my size! Finally, in the afternoon, my bags were delivered. Wet. With a “sorry for the delay” tag in them. They’ve arrived just in time for a meeting. Otherwise, I would have been promoting Delta for free during that meeting. Not that I don’t like the idea. 🙂

Another story. A colleague had his bags misrouted to Europe while flying domestic within India. It took days before he was reunited with his clothes. His was a much worse experience than mine. Imagine if you stuffed your bags with perishable goodies (some airports do not allow fruits or veg into you luggage).

Lesson learned:
Next time you fly, especially overseas, make sure you have extra clothes in your handcarry bags. Just to get by for a day or two. You’ll never know when your checked-in bags may be having an unplanned long-distance excursion. Without you.

Author: Francis

Francis is an aviation fan. He loves to travel for the flying part of it and to plane spot during stops. He likes to express his views about some aviation industry news, from the perspective of a regular traveller. Finally, he writes anything that he thinks can help others make the most out of their flights.

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