It’s every long haul traveller’s worst nightmare. You stare at the baggage carousel as fewer and fewer bags rotate around. There’s no denying it. Your bag is not coming. Suddenly, you find yourself stranded with little to no clothing and all your essentials lost to the cosmos. Keep cool and keep calm because we have compiled the ultimate guide for dealing with delayed or lost baggage this 2020.

Before we begin, to avoid dealing with delayed or lost baggage, it pays to take preventative steps. To start with: get travel insurance, arrive at your flight on time, use airport hubs and connecting airlines, and take a photo of your baggage before check-in. These steps help lower the likelihood of the airline losing your bag. However, these unfortunate things happen, so read on for a step by step break down for dealing with delayed or lost baggage.

Stay Calm
These things happen. Part of travel is the unexpected, and try to view this as a learning experience. Who knows? Maybe it will make a fun story in a few days. If, like me, you find yourself overwhelmed by events like this, take a deep breath and read through this list. Follow it as a step by step guide for dealing with your delayed or lost baggage.

Find your Baggage Tag
When you receive your boarding pass, you will be handed a baggage tag that links to your checked-in luggage. This tag is the only real evidence you have of checking-in your bag, so keep this somewhere safe and secure. It also pays to take a photo of this tag- just in case you lose it. To avoid losses of your baggage tag or boarding pass, we recommend investing in a travel document wallet or passport holder. These are great for protecting your travel documents and keeping all your essential flight papers in one place. Plus, they can be super stylish.

Find the Baggage Claim DeskThese desks are usually well signed and near the carousel collection area. If you can’t find customer service, call your airline instead. Remember to keep a composed, moderate tone and work with the team to try and find your luggage. Clearly explain what has happened, show them your baggage tag, and wait as they attempt to track your MIA suitcase.

When travelling, language barriers can exacerbate stressful situations. They also present unique language learning opportunities, so whip out your google translate or try to find a bilingual nearby to help. Keeping a calm, polite temper is going to be your biggest asset in this situation.

File a Claim 

I can preach keeping cool and calm all I want, but the fact of the matter is that lost baggage sucks. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cried in a public space because all my clothes went missing. Filing a claim helps alleviate that stress and reimburse you for your lost luggage. You will find most information about filing a complaint at the baggage claim desk, or on the airline website. The help-desk or airline will provide you with a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) to fill out. This PIR report is mandatory and the only way to claim on lost baggage. Make sure you do this before leaving the airport and keep a copy of the form for yourself in a safe place.

What do I need to fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR)? Here is the list: your airline reservation number, your baggage tag number, a description of your baggage, your address for the duration of your trip and your contact details

Know your Rights 
You are entitled to reimbursements for lost or delayed bags through your insurance and US/ Canadian Federal law. Payment may come from two sources:

Reimbursement rights for lost luggage from your airline
Airlines talk a lot about “reasonable” when they offer compensation. Reasonable means replacing your essentials until your trip is over or your bag can be found. Think essential clothing and underwear, toiletries, and chargers. Keep your receipts and check what your airline is prepared to cover before purchase.

Reimbursement from travel insurance
Your travel insurance, depending on your cover, may return money for electronics or items lost, cover additional travel costs, and reimburse replacement items.

Ask for an Overnight Bag
These are sometimes called emergency supplies and contain all toiletries you might need for the night. It’s a big time saver, and a godsend for those who want to get to their hotel and unwind. Plus, free stuff? Try to look at this as a silver lining.

Request an Allowance
You can call your insurance and ask the airline for an upfront allowance to help you get through your trip sans luggage. Allowance amounts depend on your insurance coverage and where the bag has physically ended up. If it’s running a day or two late, you will almost definitely be entitled to monetary payment. If the airline has lost it completely, formalise your complaint and contact your insurance to claim reimbursement and an upfront allowance.

Make your Complaint Formal
You can do this by contacting the airport, keeping track of your paper trail, and lodging online a complaint form about the situation. Formal complaints are the best way to keep the airport, airline, and your insurer up to date with your luggage situation. Make sure to print and note each complaint ‘ticket’ number for future reference.

Keep Track of the Status

Chances are the baggage claim desk will find your luggage and give you tracking details to keep track of your lost baggage as it makes its way back to you. You can call anytime to find out your suitcases whereabouts using this tracking number. However, most of the time, airlines will reply that your luggage is in transit. All you really can do is wait. If your baggage is being tracked, it will arrive, and the airline will contact you with a pick-up time and location. Some airlines, like Air New Zealand, will even deliver it to your hotel. For the uninitiated, the airline also allows fliers to track lost baggage using Worldtracer online baggage search tool.

Loop in Your Hotel
When you arrive at your hotel, hostel or apartment, let the front desk staff or homeowner know what is going on. They may be able to call the airline for you (especially if you are struggling with a language barrier) and organise pick up or luggage delivery. At the very least, hotel staff can recommend where you can go to replace your lost goods and provide additional toiletries, charging, and linen.

Wait as Patiently as You Can 
After you’ve followed these ten steps, all you really can do is wait. Try not to let this unfortunate fact of life ruin your holiday.

Remember, you won’t be the first (or last) person to lose their luggage on a flight. Other people have survived this, and you’ll survive it too. These unlucky circumstances are the reason travel insurance exists, and airlines are sure to work with you if you remain polite. If your luggage is delayed, claim back your reasonable expenses and get on with your break. If your luggage is lost, remember that the money you spend will be covered and although a hassle, it could just be a great excuse to go shopping.

While we would never wish lost luggage on anyone, we hope you find this list helpful!

Written by Sam S

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Last Update: January 17, 2020