The Airline Lost My Bag – Now What?

“The airline lost my bag! Now what?” How many times have you heard this at the baggage carousel – or said it yourself? The good news is, most lost bags aren’t gone forever, just delayed a few hours (or days). Yes, it’s a pain but there are some things that will help.

LISTENMore baggage advice from Rick.

The Airline Lost My Bag – What to Do

1. Before You Fly

  • Use a carry-on: The bag that won’t get lost because you’re the one hauling it around. Tip: Check the airline’s size allowance for carry-ons because if yours is too big, they’ll take it away from you.
  • If you must use a checked-bag: Don’t put anything in a suitcase that would be difficult or expensive to replace (electronics, charger cords), or anything you will need within hours of arrival (medications, eyeglasses). Leave the valuables at home and keep must-haves in a carry-on or on your person.
  • Take a picture, leave a card: Do you know the make of your bag? A lot of us don’t so take a picture of your luggage before you go to the airport in case you have to describe it at a baggage claim center later. Also, slip a business card inside so the bag can be identified in case exterior tags rip or fall off.

2. When a Bag is Missing

  • Don’t leave the airport: No matter how tired you are or how long the line is, do not leave the airport without going to the airline’s baggage office and making a report (do this for damaged luggage, too). If you don’t, you may be denied compensation and/or have a longer wait to get a delayed bag back. Most airline baggage offices are clearly marked and located near baggage carousels. If there is no one there, talk to any airline representative, or call the airline and be sure to get the name of the person you speak with; do not leave the airport without talking so someone and be sure to document this contact.
  • Contact the correct airline: If you flew non-stop when your bag went missing, you know which airline to contact, but it can be confusing when flying a connecting route with multiple airlines or codeshare partners. In that case, the lost bag is the responsibility of the airline that flew you to your final destination; be sure to contact that airline with any follow-up questions.
  • Hold on to documents: After you fill out the missing bag form, be sure to retain a copy for your own records, and hang onto any receipts or tags you’ve received for checked-bags. You may be asked to produce this proof later in order to collect compensation.

3. Know Your Rights

  • Fee Refunds: The Department of Transportation now mandates that checked-bag refunds will be given for lost bags and even delayed bags (12 hours or longer for domestic flights, 18 hours or more for international travel). However, it could be a year or so before the new regulations are full implemented. Learn more here.
  • Airline lost bag coverage: If your bag never shows up, you will probably get some compensation; airlines cover losses of up to $3,000 or more and you will need to fill out a claim form online (search ‘lost bags’ or ‘baggage’ on the airline website). However, you might get nothing for lost or missing items that an airline expressly forbids in luggage; most have a do-not-pack list of expensive no-nos ranging from jewelry and electronics to eyeglasses and documents found on the carrier’s site under ‘Contract of Carriage’ (see the ‘Baggage’ section). Learn more here.
  • Payments for necessities: If a bag goes missing for several hours or longer, most airlines will refund the purchases of toiletries (and sometimes more but big-ticket clothing items will probably not be approved). Keep all receipts, you’ll need them as proof of expenditures.

4. One Last Thing 

Patience, patience: It’s not easy (I know!) but stay calm and cool when discussing your lost bag with the airline. The individual you’re dealing with didn’t lose your bag so getting mad at him or her won’t do a bit of good. Besides, they’re only trying to help; let them. And next time, use a carry-on.


Updated: September 28, 2016