Here's what to do when an airline loses your luggage and how to mitigate travel headaches before you get to the airport

·4 min read
Luggage.
Luggage.Peter Dazeley via Getty Images
  • Airline travel this summer has been wrought with lost luggage, delays, and cancellations.

  • Reports of lost luggage are up 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • If an airline loses your luggage, here's what to do and how to mitigate resulting travel headaches.

It has been a summer of hell for airline travelers wrought with delays, cancellations, and lost bags.

Claims of lost luggage have spiked, increasing by 30% this summer compared to 2019 claims over the same period, Insider previously reported. In April alone, US airlines lost, delayed, or damaged nearly 220,000 bags, according to a report from the Department of Transportation.

Here's what you should do if an airline loses your luggage, as well as a few tips on how to minimize the damage ahead of time.

Report missing luggage ASAP

Report missing luggage immediately.
Report missing luggage immediately.Hinterhaus Productions via Getty Images

Some airlines allow you to track your checked luggage from the airline's app, which can be a great way to keep tabs on your bags while you travel. But what happens when you go to baggage claim and your checked bag never comes around the carousel?

Experts recommend reporting your missing luggage as soon as you realize it did not reach its destination. Find your airline's baggage desk, file a claim, and ask for a copy or a receipt for your records.

Ask for reimbursements and free delivery of lost luggage

When you check in for a flight, the fees for checked bags can be anywhere from $30 to $100-plus, depending on the number of bags, the weight, and whether the destination is domestic or international. If you paid a fee for your bag to be checked and the airline lost it in travel, try asking for a refund.

Once you file a missing bag claim, most airlines will deliver your lost luggage to your specified address for free. If they don't specify at the outset, make sure you ask for your missing items to be delivered free of charge.

It's important to note that airlines differentiate between luggage that is delayed (which is sometimes colloquially called "lost") and luggage that is officially lost. If it's been 5-14 days since the flight and there's still no sight of your bag, most airlines will declare that bag lost. At that point, the airline is required to issue a refund for checked bag fees, according to the Department of Transportation.

Keep track of incurred expenses for replacement items

If your luggage is lost or delayed, report it to the airline immediately.
If your bag is delayed, keep the receipts for any replacement items you purchase.Dmitry Marchenko/EyeEm via Getty Images

If your checked bag contained clothes, toiletries, or other valuables and necessities, keep the receipts for any replacements you purchase during your travels.

Airlines have to compensate you for "reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses" that you incur while your luggage is delayed, according to the DOT.

Check your luggage for damage

When the airline sends your delayed luggage to your specified address, check the bag and its contents for damage.

While there are liability limits, airlines are responsible for any damage that happens to your bag or its contents while the bag is in their care, per the DOT. If the bag gets damaged beyond repair, airlines are required to compensate you.

Prepare for air travel by packing smart in your carry-on

Carry-on bags in an overhead compartment.
Carry-on bags in an overhead compartment.Susan Sheldon/EyeEm via Getty Images

Try to pack the necessities with you in your carry-on bag, especially medications and valuables. While there's no way to predict whether an airline will lose your checked luggage, you can minimize the future headache it would cause you by making sure you have the irreplaceable items in your carry-on or on your person.

Book direct flights whenever possible

Booking direct flights can help lower the chance that an airline loses your bag, according to CNBC  and The New York Times. With fewer stops, there are fewer opportunities for your bag to get misplaced or end up on the wrong flight.

If you have to book a flight with stops, make sure you have adequate time during your connection so that potential delays don't cause you to miss your second flight. Deviations from your scheduled itinerary can widen the likelihood of your bag getting misplaced.

Consider travel insurance before flying

A passenger on a plane.
A passenger on a plane.Susumu Yoshioka/Getty Images

To prevent travel headaches from delayed or lost bags, consider purchasing travel insurance ahead of your flight. It may seem like a superfluous expense, but it covers damages, delays, or lost luggage, as well as overall travel delays and cancellations.

Experts suggest reading the fine print to make sure your concerns are covered as policies vary. Some airline credit cards or travel credit cards come with travel and luggage insurance built-in, so check to see if you already have coverage.

Read the original article on Insider