One of the major hassles of air travel today is lost baggage. One arrives at their destination only to find that their luggage did not make the trip. Here are some tips on how to avoid lost bags and how to go about compensation once your baggage has been lost.
The Department of Transportation claims that only 1-2% of baggage is classified as "lost luggage", the remaining 98-99% is returned to the owner within 2-3 weeks.
Lost Luggage Tips
· Try flying direct rather than connecting flights, as this reduces the amount your baggage is handled.
· The simplest way to avoid the losing a bag is traveling light. Take only carry-on luggage so you have your eye on your belongings at all times.
· If checking your baggage is unavoidable, add some distinguishing markings or ribbons/tape, to avoid someone else mistakenly claiming your bag as their own. Add labels containing your name and flight details, and make sure the airline attached labels are complete and legible.
· If possible buy travel insurance. If you're a frequent flyer, it makes sense to buy annual insurance.
Lost Luggage Claims
If you've lost your luggage, here's what you should do. Go to the baggage counter for your airline as soon as possible and fill out a Property Irregularity Report. Keep a copy for your reference and take the agent's contact details for a follow-up. The airline will compensate for essentials, like clothing and day to day requirements. If possible, negotiate an amount with the handler for the necessities. Keep receipts for reimbursement, in case your baggage is returned within a few days.
If your baggage is returned to you, but seems damaged, you should contact the airline within a week, in case the airline was at fault. Most airlines scan baggage tags so there will be records of when your luggage was taken off the flight and put on to the conveyor. You can approach a Small Claims Court and get compensated for negligence.
If your bags haven't been found within 3 weeks, they are assumed "lost". Once your baggage has been declared lost, it's time to claim lost baggage compensation. Check your airline's website for details about claiming compensation. Compensation usually takes anywhere between 1-3 months. The claim is negotiable at times, so make sure to fight for the money you feel is owed to you.
Keep in mind that the maximum compensation that can be claimed is $3000 as set by the Department of Transportation. For international flights, the Montreal Convention makes airlines liable for 1131 SDRs (Special Drawing Rights), which converts to roughly $1700 today. This limit can be increased if your baggage was mishandled, for example, if a "Handle with Care" sign was not heeded to. If you cannot reach an agreement with the airline for compensation, the next step would be approaching a Small Claims Court. However, do make sure that your compensation claim is reasonable, and below the Department of Transportation limit.
To summarize, make sure you pack valuables, important items and day-to-day necessities in your carry-on luggage. In the event of a lost bag make sure to act as fast as possible. Negotiate with the airline to get the compensation you feel you are owed, and don't always accept their first offer. For any discrepancies, file a claim in the Small Claims Court.