What to Do If the Airline Loses Your Luggage

This summer, thousands of travelers across the world have dealt with one of their worst nightmares: the airline losing their luggage. Bags stuck in limbo for days (even weeks), stressed vacationers wondering when their suitcases will arrive to their destination, and a saturated network that shows no sign of letting up. It makes us nervous just writing about it.

So if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of your bags having gone missing at the hands of the airline, this article is for you. Read on for details on what to do if the airline loses your luggage.

What to Do If the Airline Loses Your Bags

1. Track Your Luggage!

Every checked bag has a tag with a bar code on it that ensures the airline can track its status and location. If you download the airline's mobile app, your reservation details will also include information about your checked baggage. Often you'll even receive play-by-play updates, such as when your bags are scanned, loaded onto the plane, and taken off after landing. Many travelers choose add another layer of security and peace of mind to the equation by using an AirTag. This product, sold by Apple, connects to your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch so you can check in real-time where your luggage is.

2. Hold Onto Your Receipts!

In today's digital world, we know it's tempting to throw away unnecessary papers and stubs. However, you don't want to toss important receipts that will make it easier for you to be reimbursed by the airline in the case of lost clothing or other items. As soon as you realize your bag is missing, you must file a report with the airline. This is the only way they can have an official record of your claim and track the status of the report. If you're forced to buy items that were in your missing bag – toiletries, clothing, etc. – hang on to every single receipt so you can include them in your claim. Otherwise, you might not see any compensation for those expenditures.

3. Know Your Rights!

If your baggage is still MIA after a certain amount of time, it may be deemed lost by the airline. We know this is extremely stressful and the absolute worst case scenario for many, but you're not without rights or options. According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), "Airlines are required to compensate passengers for reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed, subject to the maximum liability limits."

Each airline sets different limits to how much time must pass before a bag is considered "lost." It typically ranges from three to 14, meaning you should check this information before you travel so you're accurately informed.

So, how much money are you entitled to receive? For a domestic flight, the official limit is $3,800, though some airlines establish lower limits at their discretion (annoying, we know). This can depend on the amount of documentation you have – or lack thereof – and can present to bolster your claim. Another reason to #keepthereceipts! For an international flight, the limit established by the DOT regulation is just $1,780. Keep in mind that devices and equipment such as prosthetics and wheelchairs are covered by different rules and limits, ensuring those with disabilities are protected fairly.

4. Check Your Credit Card Benefits!

Savvy travelers know that a good credit card is worth its weight in gold. From points to miles to special upgrades and everything in between, they're excellent allies when it comes to dealing with lost luggage, too. Many credit card companies include special travel protection in their list of benefits, which might include reimbursement for bags that are delayed or lost. Typically this acts as a supplement to what the airline will owe you, and is also subject to liability limits. Keep in mind that to qualify for these benefits, you have to have booked your flight with the credit card in question. When in doubt, always check with the credit card company to understand the exact terms and conditions.

5. Stay Calm 🙂

OK, this isn't very actionable advice, but it's worth repeating. If your bags are lost by the airline, try to stay calm and come up with a plan of action that will give you a sense of control over the situation. Remember that when flying, always keep important items such as medication, valuables, and other essentials with you, either in your personal item or carry-on.

The best defense is a good offense, so by tracking your bags, knowing your rights beforehand, and making sure you maximize the use out of any travel benefits at your disposal, you can diffuse the stress of the situation. And if all else fails, hang in there and think of it as an excuse to do some shopping!

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