While relatively few bags are lost, destroyed or broken into each year, knowing what to do if it happens can make the experience less painful. Obtaining compensation for lost or damaged items is not easy. Some airlines require written notification within 24 hours, including a list of the goods, dates of purchase and cost. Airlines also pay the depreciated costs of the items, not replacement costs.
- Make a list of the contents of each bag and bring it with you.
- If your bag does not arrive or arrives open or damaged, report it to the airline office before leaving the airport. If your luggage is missing, insist the airline agent fill out a report and give you a copy, even if he or she tells you the bag will be on the next flight. Get the agent’s name and a telephone number for follow-ups. Before leaving the airport, ask the airline if it will deliver the bag without charge or reimburse you for items you must buy while the bag is missing.
- If you discover damaged or missing items while unpacking at your destination, call the airline immediately. Note the date and time of the call and the name and telephone number of the person to whom you spoke. Follow up with a certified letter. If you are a frequent traveller on the airline, mention that fact.
- Passengers can buy additional baggage insurance from airlines. Some homeowners’ policies cover lost luggage.
Ensure you and your luggage enjoy the same trip:
The advice from baggage handlers is unanimous: putting your name, address and phone numbers on the outside of bags is the single most important thing you can do. They also recommend you put the same information inside the bag, including where you can be reached at your destination city. If you’ve borrowed a suitcase, make sure it’s your name (and not the owner’s) on the bag.
- Don’t pack the following in checked baggage: cash, jewellery, medicine, keys, passport, visa, tour vouchers, business papers, irreplaceable items such as manuscripts, fragile items such as cameras, eyeglasses, glass containers and perishables.
- Check in early. The more time you give the airline to get your bags on the plane, the better the odds they’ll get on. Continental Airlines says it is not liable for delivery or interim expenses if a bag is not checked in at least 20 minutes before scheduled departure time. The policy is printed on the back of tickets and on
- Hang onto baggage claim tickets. They are invaluable if your bags are lost or delayed and, at some airports, you need them to leave the baggage claim area.
- If bringing a lot of luggage, check with the airline(s) beforehand for restrictions on number, size and weight or you could wind up paying extra at the check-in counter. It can vary from plane to plane as well as from airline to airline. Policies are posted on the airlines’ web sites.