Have you ever arrived at your destination and discovered that your luggage never made it? Travel can be stressful as it is, and if your belongings don’t show up with you, it adds to the stress. Though sometimes things may be beyond your control, you can take these precautions to avoid lost luggage on your next trip and know exactly what to do in case you do encounter such as situation.
Pack a Carry On
Though you may want to travel light, I firmly suggest a small backpack to hold valuables, such as passport, money, jewelry, camera, tickets, credit cards, copy of itineraries and important documents. Many hotels require you to show a passport to check in, so if you lose your bag you may not be able to get a room. I also keep a copy of the documents (passport, drivers license, itinerary, tickets, etc.) on my phone and laptop (backed by Evernote) in case I lose my backpack.
Additionally, keep a change of clothes and medications. One time I flew to Omaha for business and my luggage did not arrive till the next day. I had to sleep in the oversized Delta branded t-shirt and go in to work wearing jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Looking back, it would have been nice to pack clean underwear, slacks and dress shirt in my day bag.
Track Your Bags
Left your purse in the bathroom or a laptop in the sleeve of your airplane seat? I am guilty of it. Many of new luggage brands have built in tracking devices. I attach a Homing Pin ($10) on to my laptop, backpack and check in suitcase. That way, I can track your lost bags even if they weren’t lost by an airline and have them delivered to me for a small fee.
Check In On Time
Also, make sure to check in at least 1 hour before departure to give the airline enough time to load your luggage on to the aircraft. Take a photo of the bag, note its weight and contents before handing it over to the airline agent. Customize tags for your luggage and save the luggage tag carefully as it is the only numbers you will be able to use to communicate with the airline about lost or delayed luggage. On one instance, my luggage did not arrive to India for 10 days and Air France could not track it. Apparently, it was lost at Sharles de Gaulle airport along with 80,000 bags during a snow storm. I had to give detailed descriptions of the contents in my check in for the airline to reimburse.
Be Smart About Booking Tickets
As a rule, if I have more than 1 flight changes or less than 1 hour between flights, I do not check in any bags. The chances of losing a bag goes up significantly if there are multiple carriers involved or if they don’t have enough time to move them between connections. You really can’t blame the airline for this. Often times, busy airports require loading up to 200 bags per aircraft in just a few minutes.
Have you gotten a good deal from another city and then bought a connecting flight on another ticket? Even though both the airlines may share systems (Skyteam, One World, etc.) they don’t necessarily talk to each other. On a recent trip to Japan, I traveled on Delta from ATL-LAX, got out to get my luggage and rechecked it at China Souther for LAX-TOK. Though it is inconvenient, it ensured that I got a luggage tag from the last carrier and if anything were to happen, I will not be shuffled back and forth between Delta and China Souther to find out who made the goof up. With connections, try to book all legs on one ticket.
In case of lost or damaged bags, report immediately to the Baggage Claim Customer Service of the airline you flew and don’t leave the airport without addressing the matter. After a one hour flight from EDI-SHN on Aer Lingus, I found the handle of my checked in bag was completely broken. It was clear that it had been mishandled. I went to the customer service counter of Aer Lingus in the baggage claim area and reported it. At first, they told me that “wheels and handles are not covered” but I stood my ground and refused to leave unless a solution was found. I was heading off on a 12-day trip around Ireland with a broken bag. The agent went to the back room and gave me a brand new American Tourister of about the same size for no charge.
If you paid a baggage fee (for checked bags) the airline is required to issue you a refund when your bag does not arrive with you. Your luggage is considered lost only after 21 days. The airline may reimburse you for the contents and the expenses occurred during the delays, but don’t expect too much (average comp $100/ day). It is better to have a back up travel insurance such as Allianz Global Assistance. An Annual Deluxe Plan costs $350 and reimburses up to $1000 for Baggage Loss/Damage and $200 for Baggage Delays.
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