Imagine yourself standing at the baggage carousel for a long time, then the slow flow of bags on the conveyor belt keeps slowing down, and finally halts, and your bags are nowhere to be found.
Or your bags do arrive, but they are looking like a pissed lion had been flinging them around in the zoo. Who caused your damaged, delayed, or misplaced luggage you might ask?
Airlines are known for sending a customer’s luggage to places other than where they should actually go, but luckily for us, airlines have been improving recently, so the chances of the situation ending well and in your favour are now high for a couple of reasons. They are:
- The bags that airlines lose are now greatly reduced. As per stats on mishandled bag reports in recent years, the number of misplaced bag reports per one hundred thousand passengers has decreased from 5 to 7 in the early 1990s to 3 to 4 since a decade ago.
- Tracing the misplaced bags is now more effective. All thanks to barcoded tags plus some RFID-enabled tags, the airlines’ systems now monitor every bag excellently. Whenever there is an issue now, an agent at the lost-baggage desk should be able to tell you instantly where your bag is.
However, even if airline performance is better now, what should be done when an airline mishandles a bag has still not changed from what needed to be done decades back. Below is our take on How to handle a lost luggage situation on vacation:
What can I do if my luggage Is Lost?
If an airline fails to send your bag to you after 120 hours, the bag must be lost. Every airline will use the tag “lost” when your bag has been nowhere to be found for about 5 to 30 days. At that point, you and the airline even assume that the bag is gone for good.
If the airline was responsible for misplacing your bag, ensure you receive a written claim for damages. This might need a different form than the regular “missing luggage” form. You can get the form online or by going to the airport.
The most an airline will part with on lost bags and their contents are mostly restricted to $3,500 per passenger on American domestic flights, and an unstable rate per passenger for checked baggage on international flights according to the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention. In America, if you parted with some cash as “checked baggage fee” for the lost bag, your money must be refunded. Visit your carrier’s site for more information.
You can also buy “excess valuation” protection from your airline if your checked luggage is more expensive than these restrictions, however, before you do that, ensure your personal belongings are not covered by your homeowner’s or travel insurance policy. A few credit card companies and travel agencies also provide non-compulsory or auto supplemental luggage coverage.
The airlines regularly release a lengthy list of items that they refuse to be held accountable for. And they are jewellery, cash and more valuables. They conclude that these items should never leave your home or should be kept in your carry-on bag.
All you should know is that every misplaced luggage claim process will most likely be a negotiation. Airlines will normally cover just the depreciated value of anything you say is missing, not the real purchase price. Receipts must be provided, even for an item you purchased a decade ago. You can expect to keep going and coming before a deal can be finalized.
The airline might even give you a voucher for future travel instead of cash which is really not a bad idea if the voucher value is twice or thrice a satisfactory money value. Just make sure the voucher conditions do not restrict you from travelling.