There you are, watching the same 3 bags go round and round the baggage claim, desperately waiting for yours to drop into the rotation. Simply finding the baggage claim is enough to set some people over the edge, but when your luggage is nowhere to be found, how do you handle it? After an hour of panicking, chances are you want to scream and yell at the next employee you come across. However, when you’re under the mercy of the airline it is crucial to handle the situation in a collected manner.
How Does Luggage Go M.I.A.?
Being that it is 2016 and our world is advancing so rapidly, it can be mind boggling that millions of bags each year are lost, damaged, or delayed. However, the reasons bags are misplaced are generally due to human errors. If the attendant types in the wrong destination code then it’s obvious your bags won’t be on the same plane as you. If a routing label gets damaged or torn off, it will resort in a rogue bag in the distribution area. Switching planes due to a delay or mechanical problem can leave your luggage in the dust. Sometimes human error falls into your own hands if you inadvertently grab an identical piece of luggage that’s not yours. Whatever the reason be, your luggage is sitting in an unclaimed baggage room, potentially in a different airport.
Expect the Worst
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a drastic decrease in the rate of lost luggage. By 2012, there were only 3.09 reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, setting a new record. But even though it’s becoming more rare for luggage to become lost or damaged, it’s in your best interest to expect and prepare for the worst. Before zipping up that suitcase and heading to the airport, first decide if you’re bringing anything that absolutely can’t be replaced. Try to bring expensive or unique items on board with you; as such items have been known to go missing from checked bags.
The key to never losing a bag is to give it an identity. Luggage tags may be old school, but they get the job done. Personalize your bag by making it stand out, and stick an extra business card inside a pocket for extra identification. If your bag does become lost, the airline will ask for an itemized list of what was in it and what it looks like, therefore it is in your best interest to take a few pictures of your bag before you leave to the airport.
Arrive at the airport early. Bags checked in at the last minute have a greater chance of not making the flight. The last 30 minutes before a departure is not made for the loading of luggage. No matter how late you are running, always leave your bags with an attendant at the front desk and not the nice man who carries it around on his cart. This is always the safest way to ensure your bags get where they need to be. Remove any loose straps if possible to eliminate the probability of it getting snagged on something and lost forever.
If all else fails, it never hurts to have a backup plan. Cross-pack with someone you’re traveling with so you’ll still have another bag to fall back on if something gets lost. Bring an extra outfit in a carry on if possible, and invest in a luggage-tracking device to always know your clothes’ whereabouts.
You Have Rights!
In the United States, an airline can be held accountable for up to $3,300 in valuables on domestic flights. This may sound like a lot, but if your bag had one expensive camera, laptop, or other device, $3,300 isn’t going to be in your favor. Let alone priceless items like pictures that can’t ever be reimbursed. An airline will not simply pay you for your lost goods. When you purchase a plane ticket, you automatically sign a “Contract of Carriage”, which states that the airline determines the compensation amount based on original purchase prices, minus depreciation. It is hard to prove the value of your bag without receipts, so this is where a picture of your bag comes in handy. Take this to court and if you don’t exaggerate your claim, you’ll likely get the money.
Unfortunately, in order to get to the point of receiving any compensation, you do have to file a report. Do not leave the airport without making a claim. Doing it from home, even if it’s the same day, it not good enough. If no one is in the baggage claim office, find another employee and tell him or her respectfully, that your luggage is missing. You will be assisted eventually, but do not leave the airport without filing a claim and determining if your luggage really is lost.
Don’t be discouraged, and definitely don’t be afraid to fly again. The odds of your luggage becoming lost are slim, like less than 1% slim. But it does happen, and there are ways to be prepared for if it does.