Allianz - Travel
Travel Resources

The Airline Lost My Luggage. What Should I Do?

travelers with luggage in airport
Allianz - travelers with luggage in airport

The last bag slides onto the airport baggage carousel—and it doesn’t look familiar. Your suitcase has gone AWOL. What should you do now?

It’s a question travelers are facing more than ever. All around the world, bags are taking unexpected vacations. As travel has surged and airports have become overwhelmed, so have reports of mishandled luggage (both delayed and lost bags).1 Here’s what you need to know about finding lost luggage and getting compensation.

What should I do when the airline loses my luggage?

First, head to your airline’s baggage counter and file a lost-luggage report. Provide your contact information and an address where the airline can deliver your bags. Make sure you get a copy of your report (you’ll need this for travel insurance claims) and a working customer service number or website for updates. 

Try to be patient! You may be exhausted and out of sorts, but don’t take out your anger on the airline associate. They can’t snap their fingers and make your bag appear. Understand, too, that you may not get your baggage back quickly. “Before the pandemic, travelers could expect about a 24-hour turnaround,” The Washington Post reports. Now, it can take multiple days or even weeks to reunite you with your lost bags.2

How do I get lost baggage compensation from the airline?

Here’s the good news: U.S. airlines are required to compensate passengers when your bag is damaged or lost by the airline. They’re also required to compensate passengers for “reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed” (up to maximum liability limits).3 Typically, you’ll file a claim online.

The process can be complicated, however. Some airlines require original purchase receipts for lost-baggage claims over a certain amount. Airlines typically exclude certain categories of items from compensation claims. And they don’t necessarily define “reasonable” expenses for items you buy during a baggage delay. A toothbrush and a T-shirt might be fine, but what about an electric razor, makeup or new shoes?

The worst part is the wait. Let’s say an airline misplaces your suitcase for the first five days of your fall trip to Edinburgh. You’ll have to spend hundreds of pounds to buy everything you need: toiletries, clothes, walking shoes, underwear and outerwear. Then, you might wait weeks or even months for the airline to reimburse you.

Does travel insurance provide compensation for lost baggage?

Yes—and, as Elliott Advocacy notes, “the claims process for lost luggage is significantly easier than an airline’s process.” Your baggage loss/damage benefit can reimburse you for the actual price, actual cash value, repair or replacement (whichever is less) of your missing or damaged items, up to the limit in your plan. Your baggage delay benefit can reimburse you for the purchase of reasonable essential items, up to your plan limit, until your baggage arrives.

Read your plan documents so you understand what’s covered. File a claim online and check your claim status anytime.

If you file a claim with the airline first and you don’t get the full value of your lost or damaged possessions, you can file a travel insurance claim for the difference. When you’re filing the claim, send us the determination from the airline that shows how much of your loss they reimbursed. Then, we can review the difference for potential reimbursement.

If you have an Allianz Travel Insurance plan that includes SmartBenefits®, you have the option of filing a simple, no-receipts claim for covered baggage delays. All you need to do is submit proof of a covered baggage delay to receive a fixed-amount inconvenience payment of $100 per insured person, per day. No receipts needed!

What are the chances of finding my lost luggage?

The odds are good that you’ll get your stuff back. Airlines find 97 percent of misplaced bags, according to Elliott Advocacy.4

To improve the chances of a suitcase reunion, pack a luggage tracker. This is a tracking device in the suitcase that works with Bluetooth or other technology to show the location of your bag. Just be aware of the limitations of luggage trackers. They can help you communicate with the airline (“Um, you said my bag was in Cleveland, but it looks like it’s actually in Kinshasa?”), but you probably won’t be able to pinpoint and grab your bag yourself.

How can I prevent my bags from getting lost?

Here are a few pointers for reducing your chances of luggage loss and protecting your possessions:

  • Before you pack your suitcase, arrange everything you’re bringing on the bed and take some photos. Take another pic or two of the packed bags before you close them up. This will help you prove what you lost, in the event that you have to file a claim.
  • Take pictures of the exterior of your bags as well. This may help the airline locate them, if they get misplaced.
  • Make your luggage stand out. When you have a basic black suitcase, you run the risk of another traveler grabbing it by mistake. Distinguish your stuff with an extra-large luggage tag, colorful ribbons tied to the handle, or a bright luggage belt. You could even stencil your initials or a pattern on the outside.
  • Remove old tags and labels. Are the bar-code tags and stickers from your last trip still attached to your suitcase? Rip them off now, so you don’t risk confusing the baggage-handling system.
  • If you’re buying anything new for the trip, save the receipts! Take pictures of physical receipts, and save emails from online shopping. With a receipt, lost items can be reimbursed for their cash value. Without a receipt, your baggage loss/damage benefits can cover up to 75 percent of the actual cash value of your possessions.)
  • Never, ever put anything in a checked bag that’s irreplaceable. Family photos, your handwritten novel manuscript, your grandmother’s engagement ring, your toddler’s beloved blanket… All these need to be stashed securely in your carry-on.

Other items you should never pack in checked baggage include passports and travel documents, electronics, cameras (camera film, including Polaroid film, should be hand-checked by TSA agents so it doesn’t go through the X-ray machine), jewelry and other valuable items, prescription medications, and any medical or personal items that are difficult to replace.

My lost luggage held something crucial. Can travel insurance help?

If you’re dealing with a lost-luggage emergency, don’t panic: Contact 24-hour assistance and explain the situation.

If your lost bag contained crucial travel documents or passports, for instance, we can work with the local embassy to expedite their replacement. If your bag held vital prescription medication, we can help you replace that, too. The same goes for other, specialty items: Whether a tuxedo for your best friend’s destination wedding or binoculars for your Amazon birdwatching expedition, we can connect you with local suppliers to get you what you need.

Don’t yet have travel insurance for your next trip? What are you waiting for? Get a quote right now.

Related Articles

Allianz - AZ_OPM_Insurance_Partner

Aug 23, 2022