This blog post was updated on November 2, 2018.
You keep tapping your toe and watching the clock. With each passing bag on the baggage carousel and no sign of your luggage, you start to worry. You begin to wonder if perhaps the airline or the airport has lost your bag. And then you spot a bag that looks like yours. Your heart leaps and so do your arms to pick it up, only to discover it’s someone else’s black suitcase. Lost luggage is all too common of a reality for the air traveler. If you find yourself in this position, don’t panic. Here are four steps you should follow when your bag doesn’t roll down the carousel.
1. Find a baggage representative at the airport: Next to baggage claim, you will generally see a desk with a baggage representative. Baggage representatives are often airline specific so you will want to track down your airline. A baggage representative or an airline representative will help you file a claim for your lost luggage. Even if your bag doesn’t show up at baggage claim, it could still be out there and easy to locate. Your bag might already be on the next flight, arriving in a few hours. Bottom line, you don’t want to leave the airport without getting a claim number from a representative of the airline or airport. This number often can be tracked online or will be your reference number when calling about the status of your lost luggage.
2. If the airline can’t find your bag, call the airport: In some cases, it isn’t necessarily the airline’s fault your bag was lost. Your bag might have fallen off of a baggage cart or perhaps the tag was ripped off before making its way to the right plane. If your airline can’t help you track down your bag, call the airports in which you traveled through when your luggage was lost. Your bag might be sitting in a lost baggage claim at an airport.
3. Find out what your airline’s baggage reimbursement policy might be: If your airline can’t find your bag and the airports you traveled through have no clue where your bag might be, you might have to start accepting that your baggage is lost. If this is the case, you are entitled to a reimbursement from your airline. What that reimbursement might be depends on the airline. Some have a laundry list of items as part of reimbursement exclusions. However, it’s important to know your airline’s policy so that you don’t just walk away empty handed. Even if your bag is located but it won’t get to you for several days, you are entitled to reimbursement for necessities you have to buy in the interim. Keep the receipts of what you buy so that you can send in proof to the airline when you need to be reimbursed.
4. Be persistent: With lost luggage, most likely it will turn up somewhere. It might require several phone calls before you locate it or get the right person on the other end of that call. Travelers should never just leave the airport once they realize their bag is lost. Follow up with your claim number. Call until you get an answer. Being persistent often pays off for the traveler with lost luggage.