You just touched down at your destination for several days of holiday celebration with your family. You stroll over to the luggage carousel and wait … and wait … and wait. Your luggage doesn’t appear. All you have is your carry-on bag. What’s next? What can you do?
Here are six key actions to take if an airline loses your luggage when you’re traveling during the holiday season.
Report Missing Luggage Immediately
This is the most important step and the absolute first thing you should do if your luggage doesn’t show up. Head immediately to the airline’s counter and explain the situation. The airline representative will likely need identification and your baggage claim tag information and will pull up your flight itinerary to figure out where your bag is. The airline will also want your contact information.
Most of the time, your bag was simply placed in the wrong bin during sorting and wound up on the wrong flight. It will eventually be found and routed to you within a day or two, but alerting the airline is a vital step in this process.
Before you walk away, ask to file a report about the missing bag and request a copy of that report. You should also request a phone number of someone you can contact if your bag doesn’t show up on the next flight, which is usually what is promised.
Request Reimbursement for Your Checked Baggage Fee
Most likely, you paid a fee to have your luggage checked during your departure, so not having your bag show up on time is usually grounds for reimbursement of that fee.
Negotiate this immediately, as you may not have an opportunity to do so later on in the process. Simply request a reimbursement of your checked baggage fee. As with other reimbursements in this process, it will typically be mailed to you within a few weeks.
Ask That Your Luggage Be Delivered to You for Free
Most airlines will do this by default because it’s a good customer service choice. It keeps you happier and prevents you from showing back up at the airport when your bag arrives. Make sure that the delivery of your luggage will be done and that it will be free. If the airline representatives don’t offer it, start negotiating.
Keep Track of Expenses Incurred
You’ll probably have to buy some clothes and perhaps a few small holiday gifts and some toiletries. Keep the receipts for everything you purchase and request reimbursement for those receipts as soon as possible when your luggage arrives.
Usually, this process can be done online or over the phone and often won’t require a receipt verification if the amount is small, though airlines will likely expect to see the receipts if the amount is significant and will reject “unreasonable” purchases. This isn’t the time to buy a $500 sweater, as the airline likely won’t reimburse it. But reasonably priced clothes, toiletries and small gifts will be reimbursed. Don’t exaggerate your claims or they will likely be rejected, and the airline will claim that you attempted fraud if you follow up on it.
Examine Your Luggage Carefully When it Arrives
Lost luggage is much more likely to have incurred some damage during the trip. Take photographs of any damage immediately and file a claim with the airline. Again, you’ll likely need your flight information and baggage claim information, but the claim can typically be made both online and over the phone.
Again, don’t exaggerate your claims. Report exactly what the problem is and understand that your reimbursement will assume natural depreciation of your luggage and contents, meaning you won’t get the original value.
Follow up, But Be Patient
If the airline does not follow through with any of these steps, don’t let it off the hook. Continue to follow up with the airline and file claim reports as requested. Don’t let your complaint die on the vine.
At the same time, don’t expect immediate reimbursement. Once the airline reports that it’s processing your claim and issuing payment, give it a few weeks for the money to arrive in the mail before pestering the airline again. Be patient and not angry with customer service representatives, as they’re not the ones who lost your luggage and are working with the tools they have. Patience and kindness and some humor with customer service representatives will get you far more than anger will.
Losing luggage, especially during the holidays, isn’t fun, but if you keep focused and keep in contact with the airline, it’ll usually make things right.
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