Which Airline is Responsible for Your Lost Bag

Here is a fairly common travel dilemma and its solution.

Which Airline is Responsible for Baggage

Say you’re on a trip with multiple legs – perhaps a flight to Europe – and you fly a legacy carrier for part of your journey, and another airline for the rest of the trip (this would usually be a code share partner of the first carrier). Somewhere between the two flights, your bag is lost. Which airline is responsible? Answer: The last one you flew.

Got an airline complaint? Here’s how to file

According to an email from a U.S. legacy carrier, “when other airlines are included in your travel arrangements, the final carrier is responsible for returning your luggage.”

Steps to Take for Lost Bags

After you arrive at the baggage carousel and it’s clear your bag didn’t make the trip, go to the nearest baggage office of the last airline and fill out the required forms. Usually the bag will be recovered, often within 24 hours, but you may have expenses for toiletries and other items. If that’s the case, follow the next steps:

  • Contact the last airline you flew and put in a claim for expenses
  • Be prepared to provide hard copies or scanned images of expense receipts, baggage claim tickets and boarding passes
  • Sit back and wait for a reply (you may wait a week, you may wait a month)

One surefire way to never lose a bag

When in Doubt, Contact Both but Don’t Delay

If there are any doubts, it won’t hurt to contact both carriers about your claim. That’s what one flyer did, and both airlines – a U.S. legacy carrier and Swiss Air – quickly responded that they would look into the matter. This is how the rest of it played out:

  • Two days later, Swiss Air acknowledged its error and immediately mailed a reimbursement check.
  • 27 days later, the U.S. legacy carrier finally responded saying they weren’t responsible and the passenger should contact the other carrier.

Good thing she hadn’t waited to do so.


Published: August 16, 2013