You’re at the baggage carousel after a long trip, and you’re waiting to grab your suitcase and head home. You wait, and you wait, and then you realize that your suitcase just isn’t there. The airline must’ve lost your bag.
Find out what you should do when you discover that your bag is “lost” and how you can handle the financial repercussions of this all-too-common travel disaster.
What Should You Do When Your Bags Go Missing?
The first thing that you should do when you notice that your bag is missing is to go to the baggage department. Talk to a service agent and file a missing baggage report. You will need to show them your boarding pass and describe your bags in detail. It will help if you have photos of your bags for reference.
The department will launch an investigation to find your bag. The service agent will ask for your contact information so that they can send you updates regarding the investigation.
Delayed Baggage vs. Lost Baggage
The good news is that your bags might not be gone for good. They could simply be “delayed.” They might’ve been put on the wrong plane, or they might’ve gotten stuck in the airport from the beginning of your trip. If they’re simply delayed, the airline can locate them and have them sent on a flight to your current destination.
If the airline can’t locate the bag after a certain period of time, it will be considered “lost.” Typically, airlines will declare bags officially lost after a week or two when they can’t locate them.
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What Can You Do About Your Missing Items?
You had important things in those bags. What are you supposed to do without them? First, the airline that lost your bags may provide you with an amenities bag with items like toothpaste and soap to help you get through an overnight stay without these essentials.
As for other items, you will have to purchase replacements if you can’t wait to be reunited with your bags.
You can use your emergency fund to help you cover some of the missing essentials. Temporarily losing all of your travel items is definitely an emergency. If you don’t have enough savings in your emergency fund — or worse, you don’t happen to have an emergency fund sitting in a savings account — then you can use your credit card or a personal loan to help you cover these expenses.
You don’t have to book an appointment at your bank to apply for a loan. You can get a loan online. There are plenty of benefits that come with applying for an online loan vs in person at the bank. It’s easy, quick and convenient. As long as you meet all of the requirements, you can fill out your online application in a matter of minutes. Then, you can wait for an update regarding your approval status. If you’re approved, you can use the borrowed funds to recover from your emergency.
Whatever payment method you choose, you should always keep copies of the receipts when you’re done. You will need to use these later on.
What Will You Do with These Receipts?
Once you are reunited with your bags at the baggage department, you should present the receipts of the emergency purchases that you made during your wait. The airline is supposed to compensate passengers for reasonable, verifiable and incidental expenses that they had to make during that time period.
How much can they compensate you? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the maximum liability is $3800 for domestic flights. International flights will have a maximum liability of approximately $1780 USD, according to the Montreal Convention.
If your bags are declared “lost,” the airline is responsible for compensating you for reasonable, verifiable and incidental expenses that you made during your waiting period, and they are responsible for compensating you for your lost items (up to a limit).
What If You’re Still Missing Coverage?
It’s possible that the airline has offered you the maximum liability for the expenses you made and the items you’ve lost, but that’s still not enough. In that case, you may be able to recoup the remainder of your financial losses with the help of your travel insurance policy. Your travel insurance policy should help you in scenarios where your baggage is delayed, damaged or lost.
Didn’t purchase a private travel insurance plan? Your credit card might offer it automatically. If you purchased your flight tickets with a credit card with travel insurance, you should get coverage for baggage-related issues.
Now you know how to handle this frustrating travel emergency. When you arrive home, and your bags don’t arrive with you, you’ll know exactly what steps to take next.