Losing a Bag – How to Navigate the Hassles that Follow

Believe it or not, lost bags are becoming increasingly rare, but not rare enough. If you fly much at all, I’ll bet it’s happened to you. Here’s what to do when it does.

Only surefire way to never lose a bag

1. Make a report at the airport

Don’t leave the airport without reporting a lost bag, and the same is true for reporting any damage to a bag. Look for a baggage office (usually located near the carousel). If you’re not sure where it is, look for a line – chances are, you’re not alone in your loss. If that doesn’t work, go to an airline reservation desk or get someone from the airline on the phone but don’t leave the airport without making contact.

Listen to travel expert Rick (“Never loses a bag”) Seaney tell editor Anne (“Often loses a bag”) McDermott what to do next time:

2. Hang on to bag tags and receipts

This may sound obvious but if a bag goes missing at the start of a trip, papers have a way of disappearing (and boarding passes on smartphones have been known to be deleted). You may be asked for all or any of the following:

  • Baggage claim tags
  • Boarding passes and/or document with your trip confirmation number
  • E-ticket numbers
  • Copy of airport lost bag reporting form

Also, if your bag is lost and you must purchase toiletries, clothing or other necessities, keep those receipts as well – you’ll be asked to provide proof of how much you spent.

3. Know which airline to contact

How could you not know which airline to contact? It happens, especially when flights with one or more stops are operated by an airline and one of its code share partners. If in doubt, contact both (and tell each one you are also contacting the other).

4. Fill out the online forms

If you can do this online, so much the faster. Check the airline’s website under “help” or “contacts” or sometimes “baggage” for the correct forms (or mailing address). Most of these online forms allow attachments so have receipts and other documents scanned and ready. ┬áHave questions? Call the airline.

5. Follow-up

An employee of mine who recently lost two bags after a flight to Europe (and incurred about $50 in expenses during the 24-hour period her family’s bags were missing) contacted Swiss Air on a Saturday, and heard back from them the following Monday. She was told a check was in the mail. Not all airlines respond this quickly, so if you hear nothing in a week, call them – and be sure to have all your information at hand (including any case number or other identifying code assigned to your original claim).

More from Rick Seaney:

How Not to Lose Your Checked Bags, And What to Do if You Do

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Published: July 30, 2013