Here’s what you should do if your luggage is lost or damaged by an airline

source
Shutterstock

  • Luggage gets lost and damaged – here’s how to deal with it.
  • It’s key to resign yourself to the reality that a lost bag might never come home.
  • Airlines will cover the cost of lost luggage up to a point, so pack accordingly.

Travelers at New York’s JFK airport are experiencing a true luggage nightmare.

After an unexpectedly severe winter storm shut JFK down, the facility was overloaded and then hit by a water-main break at Terminal 4. As Business Insider’s Mark Matousek reported, the situation is pretty grim for what could be submerged suitcases.

I’ve been flying for decades and have pretty much always been a check-my-bag traveler. This means that I’ve endured my share of lost luggage, and recently my wife actually had to wait several days while an airline tracked down a lost suitcase.

As you might expect, I have some tips.

1. Never pack in a checked bag something you can’t say goodbye to forever.

Goes without saying, but bears repeating: Valuable items such as watches, jewelry, important prescription medications, and various electronic devices and cameras are all for your carry-ons. You might also want to think twice about the bespoke suits and costly footwear, as if your bag vanishes into the void, you can claim $3,500 for domestic and about $1,500 for international.

2. Pack some extra clothing items in your carry-on.

I don’t do this, but it’s not a bad idea (I figure I’ll just buy some new stuff while I wait to learn the fate of my bag and later hit the airline up to pay for it). The obvious things are underwear, socks, and small articles of clothing that are easy to find space for.

3. Keep track of your baggage-claim information.

When you check in, you get the documentation. If I’m traveling internationally, I usually tuck it into my passport wallet. If I’m flying domestic, I’ll keep it handy in a pocket. You’ll need it later to locate your bag (although your bag’s code is typically cross-referenced with your reservation data).

4. If your luggage doesn’t turn up at baggage claim, contact the carrier immediately.

You can also go to the baggage office at the airport for assistance. I once had a bag put on the wrong plane, but it wound up at the right destination, just a few hours ahead of me. It was waiting for me when I arrived.

5. It’s the airline’s responsibility to find your bag and get it to you.

At home, in another city, at a hotel – doesn’t matter, when the carrier locates your luggage, it’s up to them to deliver it to you. I even once had this done with a set of golf clubs, shipped to my office days after they went missing.

6. Don’t worry about lost luggage all that much, and don’t hang around the airport.

Easy come, easy go. If your bag is definitely lost, staying at the airport isn’t going to get it found. Better to leave and trust in the system.

They'll just have to bring your lost bags to the Plaza.

caption
They’ll just have to bring your lost bags to the Plaza.
source
Shutterstock/James R. Martin

7. If your luggage is found but damaged, or if items in your bag are damaged or missing, contact your carrier right away.

Time is of the essence.

8. Buy durable luggage.

Cheap, lightweight luggage might seem like a good idea, but it’s better to go for sturdy bags or reasonable quality. This doesn’t have to mean Tumi or Zero Halliburton – in fact, pricey bags can wind up being targets for thieves. I’m a fan of good old Samsonite. My father traveled constantly when I was a kid and favored American Tourister, which is now owned by Samsonite.

9. Don’t let lost luggage turn you off checking bags.

Even though checking bags can add cost, depending on the airline, I’m still a fan. It makes it much easier to board and deplane, speeds things up a security, and reduces the overall level of clutter in airports. Some folks swear by their stowable rollers, but I’ve often advocated to friends and colleagues the banishing of all large carry-ons.