When you travel, if you check your luggage (and most of us do), there can always be the situation where your luggage will get lost. How does this happen?
- You and your luggage end up on different flights. This can happen if you get bumped to a later flight, if there is a flight delay, or sometimes it just happens when there are multiple flights to your destination.
- Your luggage gets somehow flagged during a connection.
- It gets put on the wrong flight. Bar codes can be misread by the scanners.
- Someone grabs your bag by mistake at baggage claim.
- Or simply, it gets stolen. I once had a situation where I was returning from Germany and had a connection in Chicago. In the US, you have to get your bags when you de-plane at the first airport, go through customs, and then re-check it. So, I got my bag in Chicago, went through Customs, and re-checked it. But it did not get on my next flight. When I got home the bag was not there. It finally showed up at my house the next day – but it was missing several things. I have always wondered why someone wanted my ties. They weren’t even that expensive.
What makes the situation really distressing is when you will not be staying at the location where you have landed. Say, for example, you arrive in Rome to take a cruise to Greece. You are only going to be in Rome for the next 24 hours, and then you will be on a ship.
So what do you do?
You may not be able to prevent luggage getting lost. This is going to happen, and can happen even if you check your bags plane-side. But there are some things you can do to mitigate the trouble and aggravation.
- First, if you are going on a cruise or a tour, plan on getting there the day before. This is good practice even if you don’t check your bags. If you try to time your arrival on the day the tour or cruise starts, you stand a very good chance of literally missing the boat.
- Be sure that you have the airline app for your flight. It will keep you updated on your flight and when your bag is loaded on the plane..
- Carry at least one change of clothes with you in your carry-on. Don’t forget socks and underwear.
- Always carry any prescription drugs with you in your carry-on.
- Do not put expensive items in your checked bags (like computers or cameras).
- Be sure to follow the rules concerning unauthorized items. I have seen people do some pretty amazing things. Once, I was behind a family in security, where one person had a one gallon bottle of barbecue sauce in his luggage. Another person in the same group had a one quart bottle of suntan lotion. Those didn’t quite meet the 3-1-1 requirement.
- Put a tracker in your luggage. Two examples of these trackers are Apple AirTags, and a Tile.
- Put something on your bag that makes it distinctive. Those yellow ribbons you see on luggage handles in baggage claim are not there for decoration. There are a lot of black suitcases out there.
- Double check the baggage tag on your luggage when you take it off the belt.
- When the baggage tag is put on your luggage, you get a separate copy of the number. Don’t throw it away. Do not put the tags on your passport. Get a paper copy of your boarding pass and put the tag on that paper copy. Better yet, take a picture of the tag.
- Take a picture of your luggage as well.
- If you have more than one bag, take separate pictures of the tags and the luggage.
- Go immediately to the baggage help desk. Don’t leave the airport until you have reported the missing bag. Show them the picture of the tag, and the picture of your luggage. See if you can send the pictures to them.
- If you have multiple bags, and only one was lost, do not give them information on the bags that you did receive. That will only confuse them.
- Be sure that the baggage person has all of your contact information, the flight and reservation information, and they know your availability to recover the luggage.
- Before leaving the airport, try to determine the last place where your baggage location was confirmed.
- Ask them for any information concerning a tracing number or case number, and contact information to follow up.
- Be sure to know what the airline’s policies are for allowances on lost luggage.
- If you have trip insurance, be sure you have all information needed to file a claim.
Even if the airline tells you that your bag was unloaded at your airport, do not take it for granted that you will get your luggage in the next few hours. You may want to consider going shopping for at clothes and items to last a few days.