Dude…Where’s My Luggage?

 New York LaGuardia International Airport

We had just arrived in Paris! Excitedly we hurried off the plane from Palermo discussing what to tackle first; the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame? While waiting at the luggage turnstyle at Charles de Gaulle Airport I started to get nervous when the last bit of luggage was scooped up by a fellow traveler. Watching as the empty belt circled around a second time not carrying my luggage, it finally sunk in…the worst has happened my luggage was missing. Now what?  

Whether you are traveling internationally or domestic, when your luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination it is a huge inconvenience to say the least. But don’t worry – there are some preventative measures you can take to lessen the likelihood of this happening.

With the cost of travel so high, saving money on flights is always a huge plus but make sure to check all the details before booking that cheap flight. Minor inconveniences such as tight layovers between flights, flying on multiple airlines, or flights involving multiple stops may save you money now but your luggage may be affected if something goes wrong. According to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, the safest option (for your luggage, that is) is to take a nonstop flight; and the riskiest is an interline connection meaning change of aircraft and airlines. It might be worth it to spend a little more money to take a non-stop flight on a reputable airline. One potential scenario is missing your connecting flight, this can mean bad news for your checked luggage especially if the flights are on multiple unrelated airlines; you may not have enough time to recheck your luggage between flights. Your luggage may get lost in transit when taking flights involving two or more stops-the more people handling your luggage, the higher risk you take in it getting delayed or lost.

Pack Smart for Travel

Of course the best guarantee against lost luggage is to carry-on, but this may not always be an option. Sometimes during boarding if the crew notices that the overhead space is getting tight they will ask the remaining boarding passengers to check their baggage. Some smaller planes used for domestic travel will have different baggage limits too forcing you to check it before getting on.

In the event that something delays your luggage it is always wise to take a small carry-on bag for your essentials and valuables. Items such as jewelry, camera equipment, lap top, phone/camera charger, medicines, and itinerary are not only hard to quickly replace but also are not covered by most airlines lost baggage policy. Don’t forget to carry your spare glasses and contacts as these items are hard to locate internationally or the prescriptions are not the same.

Camera chargers and extra batteries can be heavy but they can be hard to replace internationally especially if you have a DSLR camera. Often they need to be ordered online which is not feasible on vacation. Make sure to pack all camera equipment in your carry-on to avoid this potential problem.

Choose your Luggage Wisely

Choose your luggage wisely. I love designer bags and luggage but the only time my luggage was lost in Paris was coincidentally when I checked an expensive and stylish Guess upright. When we arrived in Paris, my bag was the only piece that was missing. Skip the super expensive-looking luggage and go with something a little bit more conservative.

To avoid having someone accidentally pick up your luggage at the baggage claim, make sure it stands out. One suggestion is to put a colorful tag or sticker on it so it is immediately recognizable to avoid this common occurrence.

Make sure to have a baggage labels that are clearly visible and durable enough so they cannot get easily ripped off. Clearly print your name and contact info including your email and phone number. It is a good idea to put a label inside the luggage as well.

Don’t lock your luggage. Airline security may need to inspect your luggage and if it is locked it may get delayed or detained.

Don’t Check in Late for a Flight

I found this rule out the hard way. While traveling to Texas to hike the Guadalupe Mountains, my friends and I had individual carry-on bags but we had to check the one bag with all the camping equipment; tent spikes and propane and all the dangerous items not allowed on a plane. We were running a little late but had more than enough time to board. But we did not look up the airline’s baggage check in deadline. This is often a shorter deadline then you have to make it onto the actual flight. Our luggage had to be put onto the next flight and we had to wait at the airport in Texas for our bag to arrive. We were all happy the luggage finally arrived but it put us behind a few hours. If we would have had a connecting flight it would have been a big mess!

I also found out that in some cases the airline will not assume liability for your bags if you miss this deadline. This is one mistake that can start the trip out on a bad note.

Purchase Travel Insurance

I have never been a proponent of travel insurance until my luggage was permanently lost. Purchasing travel insurance may provide the traveler with additional reimbursement of up to a standard of 1000.00 for lost luggage and an additional 500.00 for delayed luggage expenses. Travel agents and even Travelocity offer travel insurance for a small fee.

Although every airline has a lost baggage policy the key benefit of purchasing travel insurance is it is hassle–free to file a claim. Most airlines take a minimum of three months to cut a check for your lost items. When Easy Jet; a UK based airline, lost my luggage on a trip from Palermo, Sicily to Paris, France (a non-stop flight,) it took over six months, 3 claims forms, and 10 follow-up emails to get a check for my items. For a small airline they actually had a pretty good reimbursement policy and I got paid $1700.00, but I had to provide original receipts and an itemized list of everything in my bag

I highly suggest reviewing the lost luggage policy on the airline you will be taking to find out if you need travel insurance. I was surprised to learn that there are limits to how much an airline will compensate you for lost luggage. For example American Airline and United have a similar lost luggage policy. Maximum allowances for lost luggage on domestic flights (U.S.) is generous with a maximum of $3,300 per lost checked baggage, however, international travel will only be reimbursed up to $9.07 per pound with a maximum of 70 pounds per checked bag. That is hardly compensation at $634.00 per bag. Under the Montreal Convention 1999, International airline carriers in the EEU may be liable for damages up to $1500.00 depending on the exchange rates and airline policy.

Most travelers erroneously believe if their luggage is lost they will be compensated for all its contents. Unfortunately this is not the case. Almost all airlines share a common list of items that are not reimbursable such as jewelry, cameras, laptops, medicines and personal documents. It is also required when filing a claim with the airline that you must submit receipts and a detailed description for every item in your bag. Failure to accurately fill out the paperwork, not providing receipts or failure to file timely may result in a delay of your reimbursement check.

What to do if your Luggage does not Arrive?

You’re waiting at the baggage claim as others pick up their bags and leave you start to get nervous. The worst has happened. Your luggage has not shown up at your final destination. Now what? Go directly to the lost baggage department to file a report. Even if they assure you it will turn up make sure you have all the necessary information and understand it before you leave the airport. They will give you a lost baggage number; you will need this number for everything including tracking and later for filing a claim. Make sure you have your baggage tags claim tickets and boarding passes for outbound and return travel. Ask where your luggage will be sent when it finally arrives. Leave the dates and addresses of the hotels you will be at in case it arrives and they will ship it to your hotel. Clarify what number to call or web address to check to find out the status of your luggage.

Find out if they have a policy on purchases made for essential items. When my luggage was lost, Easy Jet airline reimbursed me up to $300.00 for the first three days my baggage was missing, but it ended up being incorporated into the total amount I could claim.

Most airlines do not consider luggage officially lost for 21 days, at that point you will have to file an official lost baggage claim with the airline.

To check or not to check…that is the question. I advise carry-on whenever possible. If you have to check your bag, always take the above precautions to minimize the inconveniences that will definitely follow when your luggage does not make it to your final destination.

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One thought on “Dude…Where’s My Luggage?

  1. Pingback: Planning Your First Trip to Europe? | Christine Zenino

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