Your luggage could be worth more than you think. (Photo: Thinkstock)
In June, we posted a story about a British Airways technical issue that caused thousands of bags to be misplaced. In that article, we talked to Theano Apostolou, who was on a 10-day business trip when her luggage went missing on the flight from Brussels to Glasgow.
The worst part is that the airline was unable to tell Theano where her bag was. It was eventually returned to her, but not before she spent hundreds of dollars on essentials for the remaining seven days of her trip.
As a television communications executive, Theano travels frequently for work. She tries not to check a bag, but says that sometimes it’s unavoidable if she’s flying overseas. And because these work trips are long and full of events, the contents of her bag can get expensive. “Shoes are the biggest culprit,” she says. “I have to pack evening, daywear, and boots for when I am visiting sets on location that are muddy and dusty.”
The contents of your bag can add up fast. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Theano’s story got us thinking: How much is our luggage really worth? If a bag is lost, airlines are required to reimburse passengers up to $3,400, but is that enough? Some luggage sets alone cost that much.
So we went to LaGuardia Airport to ask some travelers to put a price tag on their luggage. The experiment was fun, and a little eye-opening for some of the people we talked to.
The first person we interviewed was David Fox. David and his wife, Katherine, were traveling from New York to their home in Nebraska. When I asked David how much he thought his bag was worth, he responded with a very casual answer. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Probably $400 or $500.” Then we asked David to open his bag and give approximate prices for every item he packed. As he started to list his nice ties, shoes, and shirts, the number quickly rose to around $1,500, leaving David surprised at how much his bag was actually worth.
David Fox predicted that his bag was worth $400. Its actual value was likely $1,500. (Photos: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
Katherine was nearby and decided to take our challenge as well. She guesstimated that the contents of her bag equaled around $500. However, like her husband, she saw that as she added up its contents, the number started to rise. “I forgot that I had my toiletries in here,” Katherine said. “My bag is probably worth more like $2,000, maybe.”
Traveler Katherine Fox thought her bag was worth $500. But after a second look, she upped her estimate to $2,000. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
Our next traveler definitely surprised us with the value of his luggage. Renee had just arrived from Miami and was quietly sitting near baggage claim. When we asked him how much his luggage was worth, he passionately replied, “Well, the bag is worth $900 alone.” Upon further questioning, Renee revealed that he had packed three bottles of cologne worth $100 each, a variety of clothes, and expensive camera equipment. “My bag could easily be valued at $6,000 to $8,000,” Renee said. “Maybe more.”
Renee valued his bag at $6,000 to $8,000 — far more than an airline would reimburse if it went missing. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
The last people we talked to were the only ones who had a good idea of what their bag was actually worth. As bargain shoppers, Larry and Monica Honstin pride themselves on getting a good deal. Both estimated that their bags were under $500, a number that we promised them would be higher. But after Larry explained that he got the $50 polo shirt he was wearing for $2.50 at a thrift store, we stopped pushing.
Monica and Larry Honstin estimated that their bags were worth under $500 each. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
So what did we learn? Overall it appears that the majority of people tend to undervalue their luggage. And if put to task, most would be unable to accurately estimate the cost of their luggage to an airline if it were lost.
Keeping receipts for any items that might end up in your luggage is a good place to start. It’s also important to monitor what you pack, as airlines all have “contracts of carriage” that outline their policies on canceled flights and lost bags. “You really shouldn’t check anything valuable—that includes irreplaceable items such as family photographs, important papers, even business samples, ” says Airfare Watchdog’s George Hobica. “Basically all you’re covered for, really, is clothes, and even then, not expensive furs.” Airfare Watchdog has compiled a helpful list of airline “contracts of carriage” so you can see how your favorite carrier measures up.
The more you know ahead of time, the more empowered you’ll be if your luggage ever goes missing.
WATCH: How you can get paid for travel troubles: