To arrive in a new city, halfway across the world only to discover that your luggage has been lost by the airline is one of the most stressful things that can happen to you as a passenger. Waiting endlessly at the conveyor belt, you begin to realize the problem you are facing— your missing luggage means that you can’t rely on any of the possessions that you so carefully planned to bring with you.
And in a more practical sense, you hardly have any t-shirts to last you another day.
Our first advice would be not to panic. While lost luggage is a common problem, it is almost invariably a solvable one. Only 7% of all missing luggage ends up being truly lost.
And there is no point in being rude with the airline representatives as they are the people who will help you receive your luggage as soon as possible.
We’ve put together a little guide that will help you stand up for your rights and get your luggage back in no time.
- Missing luggage?—You have to act quickly.
- Connecting Flights?—Which airline should you approach?
- Fill out and submit your claim for lost luggage
- Compensation for missing luggage
- The airline is required to assist you
- Deadlines matter!
- What happens if your luggage is truly lost?
- What if you have insurance?
- Statistics are on your side!
Missing luggage?—You have to act quickly.
We would advise you to take matters into your own hands as soon as possible.
Sometimes the reason behind your missing luggage is really simple—when your luggage lands with you it can sometimes be offloaded to a different carousel than the originally intended. This is why we would recommend scanning the other conveyor belts at baggage claim before taking any further steps.
If your luggage does not arrive within a reasonable timeframe, however, it is time to start asking questions.
We recommend heading straight to the terminal’s baggage reclaim desk. If you are still unable to find your bag, your best bet would be to speak to the local representative of your airline as soon as possible.
Connecting Flights?—Which airline should you approach?
The situation is slightly more complex when your luggage goes missing on a multi-leg trip which requires one or more connections with different airlines.
In this case, as a rule of thumb, we would recommend that you approach the airline which operated your last flight. This airline would almost invariably have a representative at your final destination. In addition, the airline which served the last flight you boarded is responsible for delivering you and your luggage to your final destination.
Therefore, even if this airline was not the one initially responsible for your missing luggage, it is the one which needs to take all of the required steps to deliver your bags to you.
"...Keep a rough list of the possessions in your checked-in luggage with you and their approximate costs..."
Fill out and submit your claim for lost luggage
Once you reach the airline’s office, we would strongly advise you to fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) for your missing luggage. It’s not legally mandatory but it will simplify the process for you immensely.
Try to add as much detail to your claim as possible—especially specifics about the outer appearance of your bag—size, colour, brand etc. For obvious reasons, contact information is also immensely important.
Compensation for missing luggage
In addition, the PIR would also ask you to list the belongings inside your bag and their respective value. In case your luggage is not found, you would be entitled to compensation and the value of your compensation would depend on the value of your items.
This is why it is recommended to keep a rough list of the possessions in your checked-in luggage with you and their approximate costs. This would help you receive compensation if the airline hasn't located your luggage 21 days after your flight.
It's important to remember that most airlines have a list of items whose value they won't cover if your suitcase was lost. In almost all cases this list would include valuables such as jewellery, money and electronics.
This is why we would advise you to pack all of your valuable belongings into your carry-on luggage. This would help you minimize the probability that you might lose something that is of real value to you.
"The airline is required to help you purchase a few essential items while you are deprived of your bags."
The airline is required to assist you
On the whole, carriers try to be very accommodating when their passengers’ luggage gets lost. This is why some airlines could offer to cover some of their passengers’ expenses. Of course, the airline would expect that your expenses are reasonable but this almost always means that you can purchase a new change of clothes as well as deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush.
In any case, make sure you ask the local airline representative about their specific policy with regards to assistance.
In case your luggage is missing, your airline is mandated by the Montreal Convention to help you purchase a few essential items while you are deprived of your bags. This, however, usually applies only to the cases in which you are not returning home (where you are expected to have all of your essentials).
First, we should reiterate that it’s best to file a claim as soon as possible. If, however, this is not possible for you at the time, you could submit it at a later time.
If your baggage has been damaged, make sure you file a claim with the airline within 7 days after getting your luggage. If your baggage has been delayed or missing, make sure you file a claim with the airline within 21 days after the flight.
If your luggage doesn’t show up within 21 days it's officially lost, so make sure you submit a claim for lost luggage straight away.
What happens if your luggage is truly lost?
This is where the itemized list of the belongings in your luggage which we mentioned earlier becomes truly important. With the help of your list, you can claim up to €1200 as lost luggage compensation. Some airlines might not be too cooperative which is where a stack of your receipts should do the trick.
What if you have insurance?
It might be a good idea to contact your insurance company to check if your travel insurance includes cases of damaged, lost or delayed baggage. The value of your insurance may exceed what the airline is legally obliged to pay, which would allow you to minimize your costs.
"Only about 7% of all missing bags get irrevocably lost."
Statistics are on your side!
It is definitely stressful to land only to find out that your bag is missing, but chances are your bag will be found. According to SITA’s 2017 Report, the number of mishandled bags has dropped by 54% for 2007-2016 period and only about 7% of all missing bags get irrevocably lost. Relax, your bag will most likely reach you soon.
Making the most of your problem flight requires that you understand your passenger rights. Read all about your rights if your flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked.
Updated Aug 27, 2018.