What To Do If Your Lugagge Is Lost Or Delayed

Delayed and lost luggage seems to be the norm not the exception at many airports around the world right now. More than 684,000 bags were “mishandled” in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports published by the US Department of Transportation. If you are traveling soon, you’ll want to grab these tips to avoid lost luggage, and know what to do if your luggage is lost or delayed.

So you don’t have to spend your whole vacay tracking your missing bags.

Travel is messy right now. I can’t imagine having to call an airline 75 times, or going my whole 3 week vacation without my luggage. Yup that actually happened to some families. Or this unbelievable photo of hundreds of bags just sitting at Heathrow airport.

In May alone, there were almost 240,000 mishandled bags by the top 10 US airlines, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report. Mishandled represents the number of checked bags that are lost, damaged, delayed, and pilfered, as reported by passengers.

I hope this doesn’t happen to you. But my motto is it’s always better to be prepared.

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TIPS & sTEPS TO TAKE WHEN AN AIRLINE LOSES YOUR LUGGAGE

1. 🎒Choose Carry On Travel

Now might be a good time to try packing carry on only. They can’t lose your bag if you have it with you. Just make sure you follow the airline’s rules for carry on size and weight. European airlines are known to be sticklers for this.

If the thought of carry on only makes you break out into a cold sweat, make sure you at least keep your valuables, medications, devices and and an extra set of clothes and toiletries in your personal or carry on items.

2. Take direct flights / Avoid problem airports

If possible take direct flights to your destination, or avoid problem airports like Heathrow if you can. The more connections you have, the more likely there will be delays or potential for lost luggage.

Lost luggage you never get back is rare. It’s more likely that it will take time, even longer for the airline to track down your bag(s).

3. Have travel insurance or a credit card with lost bag insurance

Having travel insurance that covers lost or delayed baggage can help you get back to your vacation faster. Reaching airlines to be reimbursed can take weeks.

Some credit cards have “baggage delay protection.” Check your policy before you travel to know what may or may not be covered.

4. Track your bags

Every airline tags and tracks your bag along it’s journey. You can even see where your bags are on some airline apps. Which may give you some peace of mind, knowing where they are at. Until you can’t get through to the airline to talk to anybody, or spend your whole vacation without your luggage.

Many travellers recommend Air Tags, which connect with your apple devices so you can track your bags remotely. I’ve been hearing some great success stories in FB travel groups I’m in, for families finding & getting their bags back with these.

5. Check your lugagge is actually lost or Delayed.

Sometimes the carousel number for your luggage can change. Double check where your baggage is supposed to come in and look around to make sure you haven’t missed it.

It is normal for bags to take up to 45 minutes to arrive, especially in larger hubs. Bags often arrive in waves, so don’t despair yet, if yours isn’t first off the plane.

Most airlines will declare that a bag is lost between five and fourteen days after the flight. This can vary from one airline to another.

Large lugagge with luggage carousel in background at airport. What do do if airlines lose or delay your bags.

6. File a report with the airline

If your baggage hasn’t made the flight, file a report with the airline

  • Check the airline app (or your Apple Air Tag) to see if you can locate where your bag is.
  • Find the baggage desk for your airline of your last flight, as it’s their responsibility to make your bag arrive.
  • Report the missing bag to the agent – Provide your baggage tag so they can look it up.
  • File a missing report, if the agent can’t find your bag ( sounds like an episode of Law & Order….) Give as much info about your travel plans & what the bag(s) looked like as you can. Make sure they have your local contact info & address. As well, grab the phone number of the lost luggage desk and a reference or tracking number for the bag(s).
  • Ask what your airline will cover & double-check your airline’s policy for delayed bags

When your bag is delayed make sure to keep track of where its at, keep receipts of any essentials you need to buy, and try calling customer service to escalate if necessary, if it’s been more than 24 hours.

7. If your Bag is Delayed or Lost You’re Eligible For Compensation.

If your bag is truly delayed, then you are likely eligible for cash or compensation.

According to the US Department of Transportation airlines have the following responsibilities:

Compensation For delayed baggage:

  • Airlines are required to compensate passengers for reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed. With limits of course. So keep receipts.
  • They must also refund any fees you paid the airline to transport the bag that was lost.

Check your airline’s policy for delayed bags. Here are a few of the larger airlines in the US & Canada:

  • Alaska Airlines: Allows reimbursement for “travel essentials, with receipts.”
  • American Airlines: Allows reimbursement “reimburse you for reasonable and necessary items you need immediately while away from home without your bags.”
  • Delta Air Lines: Allows “reasonable expense reimbursements,” generally up to $50USD/day for the first 5 days with receipts. Delta also offers  2,500 miles if the time between aircraft door open and delivery of the bag to the baggage claim carousel is longer than 20 minutes.
  • Southwest Airlines: Allows for “reimbursement of reasonable expenses you may have incurred.”
  • United Airlines: Allows “reimbursement for expenses” based on acceptable proof of claim.

  • Air Canada: Allows for “reimbursement for reasonable interim out-of-pocket expenses upon submitting your receipt”
  • West Jet: Allows for ” reimbursement of for reasonable expenses,” with receipts. For flights in the America’s – Up to $100 CAD/USD for the first 48 hours. After 48 hours, you may be entitled to a further $150 for a total of $250. 

Compensation For Lost baggage

  • Once your airline has determined the bag is lost (anywhere from 5 to 14 days), they must compensate you for your bags’ contents – subject to depreciation and max limits.
  • For example United Airlines will reimburse you up to $1,500 without any documentation. But you may be able to claim up to the maximum of $3,500 if you provide receipts.
  • West Jet will provide compensation up to approximately $2,300 CAD per passenger, unless a higher value was declared in advance.

If your bag is truly lost, you’ll need to file a claim report. Most airlines have one online.

You’ll need provide a list everything that was in the bag, including purchase dates and even original receipts for higher valued items. Depreciation does apply, so don’t expect to get full reimbursement for that suitcase you bought out of high school for your very first trip. Maximum amounts do apply.

Collage of small travel essentials & gear.
Save your receipts for purchased travel essentials

One last thing. Politeness goes a long way.

Hey, I’m not just saying that because I’m Canadian.

I know it can be incredibly frustrating after early mornings, flight delays, and cranky kids to just lose your last bit of cool. But they are humans too. And while yes they work for the airline, they aren’t directly responsible for your inconvenience.

You want them to want to help you clear up the messy situation. So you can get back to the fun, not chase around your luggage for days.

I hope you foundthese steps to take when an airline loses your luggage are helpful. They’re good to have in your back pocket, just in case.

Booking Resources

Here are our favourite resources we use to research and book our trips. They offer competitive deals, and good customer service:

  • Scott’s Cheap Flights – Save big $$$ on flights
  • Skyscanner Start your research here. Searches a wide variety of airlines.
  • Booking.com – Book your accomodations here. Excellent all round booking site for lowest lodging rates.
  • VRBO Book family friendly accommodations here, that have the comforts of home, but without the cleaning!
  • Safety Wing – Get your reasonable and affordable travel insurance, with easy claims process here (under 70).
  • Get Your Guide – Get unique experiences, tours, lessons, and more around the world.
  • Viator – Even more experiences, tours & lessons world wide.
  • Anything else? Check out our Family Travel Resources & Tips page

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What to do if your Lugagge is Lost or Delayed


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