Airline travel in recent months has been wrought with stories of lost or ruined luggage, delays, and cancellations.
Reports of lost luggage in 2022 have soared by at least 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
If an airline loses your luggage, here's what to do and how to mitigate resulting travel headaches.
Amid the holiday surge in flight delays and cancellations, a deadly winter storm that left over 2,700 Southwest flights grounded the day after Christmas has travelers reporting an 'Armageddon of luggage' where baggage takes hours to claim — if it arrives at all.
Claims of lost luggage have spiked in 2022, increasing by 30% compared to 2019 claims over the same period, Insider previously reported. In August alone — the most recent data — US airlines lost, delayed, or damaged 254,502 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
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 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
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
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.
Invest in a Bluetooth luggage tracker.
While some airlines offer their own tracking services for your luggage in their apps, travel experts have started to recommend coming prepared with your own Bluetooth trackers. That way, you can track your luggage in real-time, even if the airline claims they can't find your lost bag.
The New York Times recommends the Apple AirTag for iPhone users and the Tile Mate for Android users, noting that the Apple tag performed better because it connects to the Find My network, along with about a billion other Apple devices worldwide.
"Those devices are passively pinging the network and each other in the background, and they can be found when they're not connected to the internet or when they're powered off," Caitlin McGarry wrote for the Times. "As soon as your missing AirTag comes within Bluetooth range of one of those devices, like someone's iPhone at the airport, that iPhone pings the Find My network that an AirTag is in range. Find My then reports its location to you, the AirTag owner."
Read the original article on Insider