It's an awful experience when an airline loses your luggage, and it happens to hundreds of passengers every single day.
To help you navigate these tricky waters, we've compiled everything you need to know for when your luggage gets lost.
1. If your luggage is damaged, get the airline to pay for repairs
If a bag is torn, missing a wheel, or in any way damaged, the airline should pay for repairs. If it's beyond help, the airline will pay you its depreciated value. Same goes for anything inside that's been damaged, though you'll have to prove that you didn't pack the damaged goods inadequately, especially if the outside of the suitcase is fine.
2. If your bag is delayed, report it as lost ASAP
Most "lost" bags are only delayed, as airlines have increasingly sophisticated systems of tracking them down, and can usually do so within a few hours. Chances are, your bags simply got on the wrong flight.
However, you still want a paper trail. Even if airline personnel has located your luggage and say it's on the next flight, ask them to file a report. You can give them your baggage claim tags, just make sure to get a copy of the report. Also make sure to get a phone number so that you can follow up/pester someone just in case.
Pro tip: take a photo of your luggage before you depart: it will be more effective than describing your black suitcase.
3. Check the back of your ticket for maximum claims
Certain airlines have a maximum claim they will allow, but you can usually find that on the back of your ticket. This means that if they have a maximum claim of $200, you might want to keep your brand new iPad in your carry-on, or buy "excess valuation."
4. Get ready to negotiate
Generally, you're entitled to getting back "reasonable expenses" incurred while luggage-less, though what you consider reasonable might not be in line with what the airline considers reasonable. This is when you need to flex your negotiation muscles.
5. Get reimbursed for your checked baggage fee
Whether you actually get reimbursed depends on the airline, but asking to get reimbursed for the outrageous fee you paid for the privilege of having your bag lost can't hurt.
6. Don't assume that your delayed luggage will be delivered to you for free
Ask the airline first and negotiate if need be. If sports equipment is lost, get the airline to cover your rentals. If you've arrived without your skis, most airlines are amenable to covering the cost of rentals.
7. If your luggage is lost, set a claim
OK, so your bag is really lost, it's time to set a claim. The airline will do everything it can to find your bag and avoid having to pay out, but once it declares your stuff officially gone, they have to reimburse you for it. Basically, setting a claim involves filling out a claim form and explaining in detail what was in the bag.
8. Know that you will never get full prices on your things
Airlines will only pay depreciated values for things, so unless you can prove that something you lost is brand new, they will only pay you a fraction of its value. The same goes for reimbursing you for clothes or anything bought while your luggage was temporarily lost — since they assume you will wear items again in the future they won't pay the full price.
9. Don't ask for too much
If airlines feel like you're exaggerating, or worse, lying, they might deny your claim entirely. They're also prone to asking for receipts or other documentation, so unless you're a hoarder with every receipt for everything you've ever bought, get ready to haggle with the airline on what your stuff is actually worth.
10. Check your home insurance and credit cards
Some homeowner's or renter's insurances will cover losses that occurred outside of your home. In a similar vein, some credit cards offer flight insurance or supplemental baggage coverage, which are often automatically applied when you buy a ticket with that card.
11. Be patient
It can take airlines anywhere from a few hours to a month to locate your bag, and another four weeks to three months to reimburse you. In some cases, they will offer you travel vouchers worth more than the cash they owe you, but you should make sure those aren't constrained by restrictions and blackout dates.
Have you ever lost your luggage? What happened, and were you able to recoup your luggage? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.
Written by Sophie-Claire Hoeller. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.
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