Try to Remain Calm
The first thing to do is realize that your luggage is probably not really lost. Airlines rarely lose luggage for good. SITA, a specialist in airport transport communications, says airlines temporarily lose about 6 bags per 1,000 passengers. In other words, it’s highly unlikely your luggage will be lost forever.
Notify the Airline
The first thing you should do when you realize your luggage is missing is to notify the airline. Go immediately to the airline’s counter and let them know what happened. The customer service representative will ask you for identification and your baggage claim tag information. He or she will also ask you to provide your phone number and hotel or home address. Meanwhile, the customer service rep will look up your itinerary in order to determine where your suitcase is located. Often bags end up on the wrong flight. In fact, many are not really lost- they’re just delayed. And airlines can usually track them down within just a few hours.
Get an Airline Contact Number
Once you notify the airline that they’ve lost your luggage, get a contact number for the airline. Sometimes the airline may drag its feet finding your luggage or they take their time before compensating you for your losses. If you know how to contact the right department, you can call and pester them until they provide you with the results you need.
Get a Written Claim
Before you leave the airline counter, get a written claim for damages. In the U.S., when you pay a fee to check your luggage, the airline must reimburse the fee if it’s lost. The airline will usually send the refund within just a few weeks.
Keep Track of Your Expenses and Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Being on vacation without your luggage isn’t fun, but you have to make the best of it. You’ll need to purchase clothes and toiletries. Keep track of the money you spend, and don’t lose your receipts because you’ll need to submit them to the airline for reimbursement. The airline should pay any reasonable expenses you incur. Of course, the key word is “reasonable,” and the airline will probably refuse to reimburse abnormally high amounts.
After 30 days, your luggage is considered officially lost and you will need to file a claim with the airline in order to receive compensation. The airline typically requires you to report the value of your lost possessions. Be as accurate as possible when estimating the value of the lost items because airlines are quick to deny claims that appear exaggerated. The maximum compensation for lost, damaged or delayed luggage is around $3,300 for each passenger.
It may take a few weeks to receive reimbursements and refunds from the airline. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you’re not receiving the response you need from the airline, continue to call them to learn the status of your claim. Demonstrating patience, good manners, and a sense of humor will usually make airline employees more likely to do everything they can to get the issue resolved.