Lost Luggage? Here's How to Handle It

iStock.com/PLBernier / iStock.com/PLBernier

There are a lot of reasons to feel miserable at the airport, but there’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling of waiting at baggage claim—and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, until all the bags are gone, and you’re still standing there without your luggage. Airlines do occasionally misplace suitcases, and there are a few different steps you should take to make sure you get your bag back and, in some cases, get compensated for the airline’s mistake.

The first step, according to LifeHacker, is to report your bag missing. Head over to the airline’s desk at baggage claim, where you’ll have to fill out a Property Irregularity Report describing your lost bag and giving the airline your local contact information. (Don’t leave the airport before doing this.) Conde Nast Traveler suggests snapping a picture of your bag and placing a business card or other contact information inside to help the airline identify it if something goes wrong. You should also make a detailed list of everything inside the lost bag.

While you’re filling out the paperwork, ask the airline about their reimbursement policies. Some airlines will pay you back for some expenses, like if you have to purchase clothes, toiletries, or other essentials while your bag is missing. Delta airlines provides one of the most generous coverage packages of the U.S. airlines, at $50 a day for up to five days. Be sure to keep receipts for everything you buy so that you can file a claim.

Before you leave the airport, make sure you get a copy of the report you filed and a contact number to follow up on the status of your bag. You should also ask how the airline will deliver the bag to you once it’s found and whether that will cost you anything.

Even if the airline doesn’t offer much in the way of compensation, your credit card might. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige offer coverage for lost and delayed luggage, reimbursing you if you have to purchase items for personal or business use while your luggage is missing. Many of these cards extend baggage delay coverage to family members and people traveling on the same itinerary as the cardholder. The benefits often kick in after just a few hours of delay. In order to file your claim, you’ll want to keep whatever record the airline gave you of that Property Irregularity Report you filled out.

If the airline loses your bag for good, you’re entitled to up to $3500, according to current Department of Transportation rules. On international flights, the Montreal Convention entitled you to about $1675. Unfortunately, airlines will probably lowball you on the value of your stuff, calculating its depreciated value as used goods, rather than what it will cost to replace those items.

If you have rental insurance, it likely covers your stuff even if you’re away from home, so check with your insurance company to see if you can file a claim there for your lost items as well.

And remember, this is why you need to pack your medications and valuables in your carry-on bag.

[h/t Lifehacker]