That sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you don’t see your suitcase at the baggage claim is not how you want to leave the airport. Fortunately, if your luggage is lost, there are steps you can take to get your luggage back and get reimbursed for related expenses. The airline—and any insurance policies you have—might reimburse you for daily expenses and the replacement value of your lost items, but taking action right away is essential. Here are a few steps to take when your luggage is lost.
1. Contact the airline
The first thing you must do is contact the airline. Don’t leave the airport until you speak with an airline representative. Speaking with the baggage claim or check-in desk agent is your fastest option. Call the airline if you cannot find an airline representative. When applicable, complete any airline forms to submit your claim while you are at the airport.
The airline should provide a toll-free number you can call to receive updates on your lost luggage claim. You should also reference the airline’s lost luggage page to see their policy in writing. This can be a stressful time and you may not remember everything the desk agent tells you to do.
2. Request delivery to your home or accommodation
Make sure to leave your contact information so the airline can contact you with updates. Most airlines will hand-deliver your luggage to your home or hotel once it arrives.
If the agent doesn’t mention this delivery option, ask before you leave the airport. It can save you another trip to the airport just to claim your luggage. This can obviously be especially helpful if you are pressed for time while on a business trip.
3. Request checked baggage fee reimbursement
Some airlines will reimburse your checked baggage fees once your luggage is delayed at least 12 hours after submitting the claim. That is why time is of the essence. Notifying the airline immediately means the clock starts sooner to receive any reimbursement.
The airline may have you submit this request when you also claim any incidental purchases like clothing and toiletries.
4. Submit a claim to the airline after 24 hours
Most airlines let you qualify for compensation after your bags are lost for more than 24 hours. At this time, submit the airline’s baggage claim form. This form will ask for the value of your lost contents and any incidental expenses.
Airlines currently compensate up to $3,500 per ticketed passenger for lost, damaged, and delayed baggage for domestic flights. You will need to list an inventory of the packed items and an approximate dollar value. The airline will use this information to determine your compensation for lost and damaged items.
Whether you have luggage for business or personal use, it’s a good idea to have photos of your luggage. This way, you can provide pictures to help verify your claim.
5. Keep receipts of incidental expenses
Most airlines will reimburse you up to $50 per day for five days for reasonable incidental expenses from your lost or delayed baggage. These expenses can include clothing, toiletries, and a cell phone cable. If possible, try to get a brief explanation of what the airline considers a “reasonable purchase.”
As a general rule of thumb, buy items that you normally buy to replace your current inventory. Doing so makes it more likely that your compensation claim gets approved. You will need to keep a receipt of every purchase in order to receive compensation.
6. Check your credit card benefits
The credit card you used to book your flight might also offer lost or delayed baggage benefits. These benefits might activate sooner than the airline’s and will reimburse any expenses not already covered by the airline or a travel insurance provider.
Make sure you read your credit card’s guide to benefits to understand the notification deadlines. You may need to notify your credit card company within 20 days to start the claims process.
If your luggage is lost, you will need to provide a Proof of Loss statement from the airline. Also, be prepared to submit purchase receipts for the lost or damaged items to receive compensation.
7. Consider travel insurance and homeowner’s insurance claims
If your credit cards don’t offer baggage insurance, you might still be in luck if you have a standalone travel insurance policy. Even your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might cover lost or delayed luggage.
Like the credit card benefits, you will first need to see what compensation the airline offers. Any travel insurance or homeowner’s insurance coverage is secondary.
8. Inspect luggage for damage
If the airline finds your bag, immediately inspect it thoroughly for damage. It’s likely the airline will offer to repair or replace your luggage. However, you may need to notify them within 24 hours of receiving your luggage.
You will need to submit another form for the repair process. The airline may also require the original proof of purchase receipt for the damaged suitcase and contents. If you purchased the item online, you can easily print a copy of your purchase receipt to submit the claim.
It’s a good idea to take pictures of your damaged items before sending them off for repair. Keep these pictures for your personal records. The airline may require you to submit photos while submitting a claim, as well.
9. Look for missing items
In addition to inspecting your suitcase for damage and clothing for soiling, see if any checked items are missing. You may need to contact the airport to see if they are holding an item matching your description. If not, you might be able to receive compensation from the airline or another insurance policy for these items.
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