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What To Do If Your Checked Bag Goes Missing


There’s no faster way to a ruined vacation than arriving without everything you brought with you. Lost luggage has always been a concern, but recent, high-profile technology glitches, paired with short staffing, have caused unprecedented problems. One infamous glitch in June 2022 caused Terminal 2 in London’s Heathrow airport to fill with luggage and sent fliers onto their connecting flights without any bags.
The Boston Globe reported “a one-third increase in 'mishandled' baggage on domestic flights compared with the same month last year” after reviewing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s May 2022 data. It was reported that “almost 6 of every 1,000 bags were delayed or lost in May.”
If you find yourself without your luggage, having a plan will help save time and reduce stress. Planning before you fly will also allow you to take some preventive measures.
Baggage left

Airlines usually have offices on the airport’s baggage claim level where you can go for help if your luggage goes missing. This should be your first stop. The staff can check if your bag made the flight and start the claim process for you. Before leaving, make sure you have a claim number and contact information for follow up. 

While you wait in line at the baggage help desk, you can start gathering some information on your own. In many airline apps, you can track your bags from the moment you drop them off, and as your bag is loaded and unloaded from the plane. Wherever this tracking system stopped displaying updates can give a clue as to where your luggage was last located.   

Since this system only updates when the bags’ barcode is scanned, you might consider your own tracking device, which can offer valuable information to airport staff. Before you fly, drop an Apple AirTag ($29 for one, $99 for four) inside your suitcase. Put one in your carry-on bag, too, just in case it gets checked at the gate. You can then view your bag’s location on your iPhone’s “Find My” app.
Flight apps

When you buy your airline ticket, you can also buy an insurance policy to protect yourself if your bag goes missing. These policies may cover expenses you incur to purchase items while your bags are delayed. Policies may also reimburse you if your bags cannot be located. Policy payouts will be capped, so make sure you buy the amount of insurance you want. Insurance is also usually secondary, meaning it kicks in after airline refunds.
Travel credit cards may also include insurance if you use them to purchase your flight. For example, the United Club Infinite Card “reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours…up to $100 a day for 3 days.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Once an airline determines that your bag is lost, the airline is responsible for compensating you for your bags’ contents.” However, these rules limit the airline’s liability based on your flight destination. In the cases of delayed baggage, “airlines are required to compensate passengers for reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed.”

Lost baggage

Only check a bag if absolutely necessary. Ensure medications, personal items and keys are kept in your carry-on bag. Finally, try to fly non-stop. Flights with connections pose more opportunities for your bag to be mishandled.