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Is Your Luggage Lost? Here's How to Get It Back — Fast!

Brittany Jones-Cooper
Editor, Yahoo Travel
July 30, 2014

Megan Liberman arrived in New York on July 22. Her bags did not. 

She was originally booked on American Airlines from London to New York, but her flight was canceled and she was rebooked on a British Airways flight. Somewhere along the way, her four bags were misplaced, and when she landed in New York, they were nowhere to be found.

Related: Flight Delay? Here’s How to Get on Another Airline

A canceled flight can easily lead to bag confusion. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Her bags contained the typical items — all of her family’s summer clothes, shoes, toiletries, medications, and souvenirs. 

"The delay was a nightmare and extremely costly," said Liberman, editor-in-chief of Yahoo News. ”My kids left for sleep-away camp on Sunday morning, and I had to repurchase whole summer wardrobes, shoes, goggles, etc. for them, which I will never recoup the cost of.”

By Sunday night she got three of the bags back. The fourth is still en route.

What happened to Liberman and her family is not a rare occurrence. A month ago, thousands of bags were misplaced in the British Airways baggage system. It took three days for the airline to correct the issue and start getting bags back to passengers. 

Going any amount of time without your baggage can be inconvenient, stressful, and costly. So before you board, read on for some tips and tricks that will keep you from playing lost and found with your luggage.

Before you fly, consider this: 

1. Pack a Solid Carry-On

By now we all know the power of the carry-on. Be sure to pack any important or expensive items in your carry-on to prevent being left high and dry. This includes electronics, prescriptions, and a change of clothes. If you’re struggling to fit everything in your carry-on, try this bundle packing method.

Related: The Luggage Police Are Watching! #CarryOnShame

Pack your carry-on with necessities — just in case. (Photo: Thinkstock)

2. Ship Your Luggage

Completely remove the possibility of the airline losing your luggage and ship it instead. There are several services out there that have pretty good rates, including Luggage Forward, Luggage Free, Sports Express, and the Luggage Club. They’ll deliver your luggage straight to your final destination — how sweet is that?

3. Think About Baggage Insurance

Unfortunately, you can’t predict when your bags are going to go missing. But you can prepare for it. Baggage insurance is a good way to guarantee you get a little something back if your bags go missing. Many credit cards offer baggage insurance plans. If you’re like Liberman and have to buy new items until your baggage arrives, some cards will even reimburse you. There are also companies like AirCare and Allianz that offer great coverage.

Related: Protect Your Stuff: Credit Cards With the Best Baggage Insurance

Don’t get left high and dry at baggage claim — consider shipping your bags ahead of time. (Photo: Thinkstock)

If your checked bag goes missing: 

1. File a Report

Find the baggage claim office and fill out the proper paperwork to file a report. Make sure to file before you leave the airport, even if the line to make a claim is ridiculous — just get it out of the way. If the airline lets you down, you can also file a report with the Department of Transportation.

2. Make a Detailed List 

Create a list and prices of everything you packed in your bag (and don’t forget the price of the bag itself). If worst comes to worst, you’re going to need to know how much the contents of your bag were worth. By law, airlines are required to pay up to $3,400 per missing bag for domestic flights, but that number is not guaranteed. If the airline values your bag at less than $3,400, then that’s what they’ll pay you. So be prepared to negotiate, and keep receipts for any items you pack, just in case the airline asks for proof.

3. Be Cautious/Ask Questions

Airlines are supposed to help financially if your baggage is lost or delayed. This usually comes in the form of a couple of bucks for toiletries until your bag arrives. Don’t be afraid to ask. Some airlines may also offer vouchers for future flights instead of a cash payout. This could be good or bad — just make sure you read the fine print concerning blackout dates and so on. 

Related: What If … You Lose Your Car Keys, Passport, Wallet, or Phone While Traveling?

Report missing bags to the baggage claim office. (Photo: Thinkstock)

4. Know Your Rights

The following statement is from the Department of Transportation. It pretty much sums it up: 

Airlines will now be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost. Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners. Airlines are already required to compensate passengers for reasonable expenses for loss, damage or delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.

5. Don’t Freak Out

Above all, keep in mind that it is rare that a piece of luggage truly goes missing. It is much more likely that it has been delayed or misplaced. So if you don’t have your bag, don’t automatically assume the worst. 

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