You’ve lost your luggage: Now what?

If you are travelling any time soon, you might be pleased to hear that airlines are losing approximately 70% less luggage today than they were 10 years ago. Nevertheless, we all know someone who has lost a bag or two, and those statistics aren’t quite so reassuring when you find yourself waiting by the luggage belt empty handed.

So what should you do if you find yourself luggage-less? Don’t worry—there’s no need to panic. We’ve put together a simple guide, so you can deal with lost luggage calmly and effectively, wherever you are.

Check you’re covered

Everyone should take out travel insurance before they go away, but many people forget to check if their baggage is covered by their chosen policy. Different insurers will offer various limits, but most tend to pay up to a maximum of £2,000 for lost or stolen luggage. It’s worth noting that many policies have a single-item limit too, so if you have a particular item worth more than £300 it’s unlikely they’ll let you claim its full value back.

If you have taken out travel insurance, give your insurer a call as soon as you’re sure those bags aren’t coming back. Contact the insurer, ask for a claims form and fill out the details carefully. Create copies of receipts, and send them with the form.

If you are travelling with an expensive item, insure it separately just in case. Don’t forget to read the small print too—many insurers refuse to let travellers claim for high-value belongings if they’re left unattended (which includes being in the hold of the plane).

Explore other possibilities

If you’ve discovered your suitcase isn’t on the luggage belt, don’t worry. The first thing to do is head to the baggage service or customer service desk in the airport—they can check if your case has been moved to a later flight. Your luggage could just be delayed.

Delayed luggage is easily retrieved, and most airlines will provide you with an estimated time of arrival. You will need to leave the details of your accommodation so they can deliver it to you when it turns up, and there’s no harm in asking if you can track your bag’s progress—some airlines will provide you with a number to call, or direct you to a website.

While you wait, you may need to purchase a few items to get by. If you pick up a new t-shirt, for example, keep the receipt. Most airlines will reimburse ‘reasonable’ expenses if you make a claim within 21 days of your flight. Ask about this when you’re in the airport, staff should be able to provide you with a form or help you locate one online.

Make sure you don’t lose out

If your luggage is missing, make sure you inform the local police, a hotel manager or transport provider within 24 hours and ask for a written report. This will act as vital evidence when you make a claim.

You will need to wait 21 days until you can claim compensation from the airline. The window for this is small (usually seven days) so make sure you act as soon as those 21 waiting days are up. If you have taken out travel insurance that covers your lost luggage, you’re better off claiming with your policy provider instead. If you haven’t, most airlines will require you to fill out a claim form to submit your request for financial compensation.

Whether you fill out a form provided by the airline or write your own letter, make sure you include your flight details, information on what has happened to your bag and a description of what you’ve lost. It’s best to include this as a list, along with a further list of all the items you’ve had to repurchase as a result (don’t forget the receipts). Then, state how much money you want from the airline—it’s unlikely you’ll get it all, but there’s no harm in asking.

Thinking Ahead

While nobody anticipates lost luggage, not having your suitcase at the start of a trip abroad can ruin a holiday. Our recent survey revealed that 58% of Brits lose their baggage abroad, so plan for the worst-case scenario if you’re travelling with someone else, and split your essentials between two bags. This way, at the very least you’ll have a change of clothes until you’re reunited with your belongings.

If you are an organised traveller there are other things you can do to help too. Consider attaching a lock to your suitcase to deter thieves, and add a luggage tag with your contact details so you can easily be reunited. Packing expensive, sentimental or important documents and items in your hand luggage is also a good idea, meaning you can keep them close while you travel.

There’s no denying that losing luggage is upsetting, but follow these steps and you can be sure you’ve done everything you can to make the process less stressful. Don’t forget to head back to the ICE newsroom for more expert travel advice.

Notes: Survey conducted by OnePoll with 2,000 participants between 6th and 14th July 2017.