Is your luggage lost or delayed? Here is exactly what you need to do when experiencing lost or delayed luggage.
I’ve unfortunately experienced severe luggage delays on two occasions. On both occasions, weather delays resulted in tight connections. I made both connections. My luggage did not.
My luggage eventually made its way to me. It wasn’t fun but it taught me how to deal with what can be a frustrating situation.
Here is exactly what you need to do when experiencing lost or delayed luggage.
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1. Take a picture of your bag tag copy
The slow spin of the baggage carousel has come to a stop. Your luggage is nowhere to be seen.
Your first step is to find your copy of the bag tag and take a picture of it on your phone.
Many people will ask for copies of your bag tag. It’s easy to leave your bag tag behind during one of these exchanges.
By taking a picture, you make sure that your bag tag information is still available to you even if you leave the paperwork behind.
2. Check with the bag claim desk
Next, head over to the bag claim desk and provide the attendant with a copy of your bag tag.
Sometimes, there is an immediate happy resolution. I’ve had luggage come on an earlier flight and it’s waiting for me at the bag claim desk. I’ve also experienced huge delays between rounds of luggage on the baggage carousel and the attendant can assure you that more luggage is coming.
But if the attendant can’t provide happy news, it’s time to complete a baggage claim form.
3. Complete a baggage claim form
A baggage claim form alerts the airline to look for lost or delayed luggage. The airline will use this form to track down your luggage and (hopefully) deliver it to you.
The attendant at the bag claim desk will provide you with the baggage claim form and will help you to complete it.
When completing the form, keep a couple of things in mind:
- Delivery Address: You want to make it easy for the airline to reunite you with your bag. So think carefully about the delivery address. Are you going to be at that address for the next few days? Will someone be there to accept the luggage if you’re out sightseeing?
When my luggage was delayed in France, I was staying at an Airbnb. Not ideal for luggage delivery. So I provided the address of the hotel where my friends Suzanne and Jim were staying. The hotel front desk could accept the luggage delivery even if we weren’t there.
- Phone Number: Provide a phone number where you can be reached immediately. When my luggage was delayed in Norway, I provided the phone number of my Norwegian tour guide.
This was great for two reasons. First, she had a local phone with better service. Second, she spoke Norwegian and could figure out what was going on without any language barriers.
4. Take a picture of the baggage claim form
After completing the baggage claim form, take a picture of it to ensure you have the relevant information on hand.
You’re going to see a theme of using your phone to take pictures of the documentation you get along the way.
Documentation is handed back and forth so many times during this process that it’s easy to get misplaced.
When my luggage was delayed in France, I accidentally left my baggage claim form at the bag claim desk. Luckily, I had a picture of it because I needed to reference it several times later.
5. Confirm how to check for updates
Ask the attendant at the bag claim desk how you can check for updates on your lost or delayed luggage.
Is there a phone number you can call? A website you can check?
In my experience, you don’t always get the best updates via phone or website. But when you’re feeling frustrated, having something to check feels better than doing nothing at all.
6. Find out what the airline will compensate
While waiting for the airline to locate and deliver your luggage, you’ll likely need to buy some essentials. Things like toiletries and clothing.
Before you leave the bag check desk, ask the attendant whether the airline will reimburse you for the essentials you buy while your luggage is delayed.
I’d recommend also checking the airline’s website to confirm what’s covered. You don’t want to make purchases based on incomplete information.
In most cases, the airline will reimburse you up to a certain limit for essentials purchased while your luggage is delayed.
7. Find out what your travel credit card will compensate
Hopefully, you purchased your flight with a travel credit card that includes delayed luggage insurance.
With this type of insurance, your credit card company will reimburse you for any costs that were in excess of what the airline reimbursed.
When the airline delayed my luggage in France, the airline covered about 85% of my costs. My travel credit card (Chase Sapphire Preferred) covered the rest of the costs.
If you don’t have a travel credit card yet, I recommend getting one. I was less frustrated about my delayed luggage because I knew my costs would be covered by the airline and travel credit card. Check out more perks of travel credit cards here.
8. Keep copies (and pictures) of all receipts
Keep a copy of all receipts for any essentials that you purchase while your luggage is delayed.
And like all your other documentation, take pictures of the receipts with your phone.
You’ll need these receipts to claim reimbursement from the airline and your travel credit card company.
9. Update the airline if your location changes
When you completed the baggage claim form, you provided the airline with an address to deliver your luggage. If you leave that location before the airline delivers your luggage, you’ll need to contact the airline to change the delivery location.
During the two times that the airline delayed my luggage, I moved locations before they could deliver my luggage. In both situations, I asked the airline to hold my luggage at the airport so I could pick it up there. It’s not ideal (the airline should be making it right, not you). But if you want to increase the chances of getting back your luggage, sometimes you have to make the extra effort.
10. Enlist local support
If you’re in a country where you’re not familiar with the language, it can be helpful to enlist local support when dealing with lost or delayed luggage.
Find someone you trust who speaks the local language, such as your tour guide or the hotel front desk representative.
They can call the airport on your behalf and ask for updates. They will be able to ask detailed questions that you may not be able to articulate.
In Norway, my local tour guide was able to call the airport and ask for updates in Norwegian. With her assistance, I was able to track down my luggage.
11. Request a delivery receipt (and take a picture)
When the airline (hopefully) reunites you with your luggage, ask for a delivery receipt.
I made the mistake of not asking for a delivery receipt when the airline returned my luggage to me in France.
When I was filing my reimbursement claim, my travel credit card company asked for a copy of a delivery receipt. I was able to dig up a hand-written note from the airline that noted when I was picking up the luggage. The credit card company accepted this as the delivery receipt. But it would have been easier if I’d had a more formal delivery receipt.
Make sure you ask for a delivery receipt when you get your luggage back.
And, like all your other documentation, take a picture of the delivery receipt on your phone.
12. Submit a reimbursement request to the airline
Once you’re reunited with your luggage, it’s time to get reimbursed for the costs you incurred while your luggage was delayed.
Since you’ve taken pictures of all your documentation and receipts along the way, this should be a breeze.
Simply complete the reimbursement form on the airline’s website and submit copies of your documentation.
I heard back from the airline within days of submitting my reimbursement request. They reimbursed me for about 85% of my costs. I wasn’t worried about the other 15% because I knew my travel credit card would cover it.
13. Submit a reimbursement request to your travel credit card
If you booked your flight using a travel credit card with delayed luggage insurance, submit a reimbursement claim to the credit card at the same time you make the request to the airline.
Your credit card claim will then be pending until you hear back from the airline. After you get the reimbursement response from the airline, you’ll alert the travel credit card company.
The credit card company will then reimburse you for the costs in excess of what the airline reimbursed you for (up to a certain limit).
Happily, I used a travel credit card (Chase Sapphire Preferred) with delayed luggage insurance to book my flight. The credit card company covered the costs that the airline didn’t cover.
14. What to do if your luggage is truly lost
Unfortunately, airlines sometimes lose your luggage entirely. If that happens, you’ll also need to submit a lost luggage claim form to the airline and your travel credit card company.
Both the airline and travel credit card companies have limits on reimbursement amounts. Check if your personal home or renters insurance will cover some of your loss, too.
Lost or delayed luggage can be a frustrating experience. I hope these tips help you to get through the experience as best you can!