Frequent travelers know the feeling of standing at the baggage carousel, waiting for their luggage. Waiting…waiting…waiting, and it never shows up. Slowly the carousel comes to a stop. All the other passengers have left. Yet there you are, standing there without your carry-on luggage and without much idea of what happened. Lost luggage is perhaps one of the most unnecessary and frustrating occurrences in all travel. In this article we’ll explore how lost luggage situations happen and how they can be avoided.
There are typically four common areas of lost or damaged luggage; delayed, lost, stolen, or damaged. While they are distinctly different, the feeling of frustration and often the means to go about correcting these errors leaves you, the traveler, with the same irritable demeanor and many times the loss of trust in your airline of choice.
Delayed luggage is perhaps the simplest and least stressful scenario to deal with. If your bags are delayed, most airlines have tracking systems in place. Additionally, when the luggage arrives the airline will usually deliver it to you. While a day or so may pass and you’ll have to make do without your bags, ultimately delayed luggage is easily correctable.
Lost and stolen luggage, however, is significantly more problematic. Lost luggage is exactly that, lost. If your luggage is lost, expect to be required to complete a series of written “missing luggage” claims while the airline investigates. Airlines limit their pay-out to passengers experiencing lost luggage issues, usually in the neighborhood of $3,500. Additionally, airlines may ask you to furnish receipts for any goods declared as valuable. it is in this way that replacing items lost in a “lost luggage” situation can be quite difficult, time consuming, and stressful for the traveler.
Stolen luggage, by contrast, is a matter that goes directly into the hands of the authorities. Airlines have less oversight in suspected stolen luggage situations. Where lost luggage requires written declarations of value and possibly receipts, stolen luggage can often be recouped (in terms of monetary value] with homeowners or traveler’s insurance.
Damaged luggage, while not lost or stolen, is another common issue that can cause travelers great stress and inconvenience. Damaged luggage is handled by the airlines and just like lost luggage, will often times require receipts to obtain repayment in the proper amount. Moreover, damaged luggage situations require proof of tampering or any other type of mishandling thus it is of paramount importance that damaged luggage gets reported immediately to the airline. By reporting rapidly, it erases any perception that you, the traveler, intentionally damaged your own luggage to swindle the airline.
While any misfortune with your luggage is inconvenient, there are a number of steps that you as the traveler can take to combat these problems proactively. Use these eight simple steps when preparing for a trip in order to decrease the likelihood that anything distasteful will befall your luggage.
- Personal Information
Always be sure to list your personal information on the luggage. Airlines provide tags for personal identification for a reason because they know these situations are somewhat inevitable. It is advisable to get yourself a more permanent baggage tag, since the ones that the airlines provide at check-in are made of paper and quite fragile. If possible, also try to include a travel itinerary in your bag so that the airline can track you down easier. If your luggage is lost, the combination of a travel itinerary and accurate baggage IDs info can hugely expedite the process of getting your luggage back to you.
- Avoid Tight Connections
Two of the most common causes of lost luggage are close connections and late check-ins. Avoid both by arriving to the airport early and ensuring you have ample time between connecting flights. Remember, not only are you traveling but so it your luggage and in the same way that you need time to walk between gates on a connection, so too does the luggage. Longer connections can help ensure that your luggage has sufficient time to be transported to the appropriate location.
- Carry-On Valuables
This tip speaks for itself. Lost and stolen luggage, while not common, is not entirely uncommon. Protect your valuables like jewelry, computers, and passports by carrying them onboard with you.
- Make a List
An itemized list of belongings, while time-consuming to make, can provide great dividends later if your bags come up missing. Make a list beforehand, a packing list of sorts, of everything of value in your bags. This will be useful later when filing a claim for lost luggage and its contents.
- Double Check the Agents
Always be sure the airline ticketing agent booking you in places the proper flight info and destination on your bags. While this is technically their “job” and they are expected to get it right, human error is a huge factor in lost luggage situations.
- Bring Extras
Allow some extra space in your carry-on bags to pack away some surplus goods, you know, just in case. Things like an extra set of clothes, toothbrush, some spare cash, and any other small essentials can help you get through a day or so without your luggage in the event it is lost.
- Travel Insurance
Largely overlooked and underused is travel insurance. Most people forego this expense, assuming everything will go just as planned. While hopefully, this is the case, one can never be too safe. There are plenty of online guides to purchasing the appropriate travel insurance for your journey.
- Professional Baggage Services
Although not commonplace in the world of travel, services exist for the explicit purposes of protecting your luggage. Baggage tagging services can provide tags that have unique identifiers, usually in the form of serial numbers, in order to be tracked digitally through an online database. This tracking can give you an extra layer of security and peace of mind since you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact location of your bag at any given moment.
In sum, lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed baggage can be a tremendous inconvenience and can hinder your travel plans greatly. Moreover, it can result in a loss of personal and often valuable property that may or may not be able to be recouped. There is no reason not to be proactive in these situations. Using the steps listed herein, you can properly prepare for your journey and feel confident that if you are the victim of wayward luggage, you are ready for the challenge and prepared to correct the mistake.