What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Luggage

Inspired by an interview on my podcast with Sam Cornthwaite about this topic, I decided to put this information into a blog post as well because it’s too good not to share. If you fly, you simply need to know what to do when an airline loses your luggage. Here are 12 tips about luggage-loss prevention and airline negotiation.


 

How to Prevent Lost Luggage – 7 things you can do beforehand

1. Check the luggage tag as soon as the airline personnel puts the tag on. Be sure it has the correct code for your final destination. Stop them from throwing your bag onto the conveyer belt if you have to in order to check this tag. This way it at least will be reported correctly in the system.
2. Fasten any loose straps or clips on your bag. Do this so it won’t get caught in the dark tunnels of the conveyer belts. For backpacks, you can fasten the waist strap around the backpack itself, backwards, like this:
Backpack Straps
3. Join the airline mileage member program. This is free and will boost your chances of getting help and attention if and when the airlines does lose your luggage.
Related: Getting the Most from Frequent Flyer Miles
4. Show off your status if you have it. You’ll notice in the photo above that I affixed my United Premier Silver luggage tag to my backpack. The airline will recognize this as a special tag given to those with status and loyalty to the airline. It can’t hurt, and it might actually help them pay attention to your bag.
5. Fly with a major airline that actually has good customer service. Budget airlines are less likely to help you or offer you any compensation.
6. Take Tim Ferriss’ advice and pack a starter pistol (unloaded and in a hard-sided container) in your checked luggage. This must be declared and you can bet the airline will keep track of that bag. He says it’s never failed him. Read more about this here.
7. Best advice yet: only bring a carry-on whenever possible.
If you have to check a bag, think defensively and keep a change of clothes and anything most valuable to you in your carry-on, just in case.
 
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What to Do When an Airline Loses Your Luggage – 5 steps to negotiation

1. Get ahold of the airline customer service Stateside. These are the people who care about you and want to help you. This is also where being a member of the airline’s mileage program is a benefit, because they can see that you are interested in continuing to fly with them. They are more likely to take care of you if they know you will fly with them again.
2. Make sure they know you are not happy and that this is an inconvenience to you, but be polite. It’s not that agent’s fault that your luggage is lost, threatening that you’ll never fly with them again is not incentive for them to help you.
Related: Lost Bags and Overbooked Flights: How to Negotiate with Airlines with Sam Cornthwaite
3. Make sure someone is going to advocate for you. This way you don’t have to keep calling back to make sure someone is on it.
4. Call once a day to check up. This shows that you are indeed in a hurry to get your bag back.
5. Once bag arrives, begin negotiation. The logic behind waiting until your bag comes is twofold. First of all, you and the airline both need to know that your bag is going to show up at all. Second, if you settle for certain compensation up front and then it ends up taking an entire week to get the bag to you, you were probably shorted what you should have received. Sam, as he shares with us in episode 33, says a good amount to expect is $100 per day for each day that your bag is lost. If you accept $300 up front and it takes 7 days, you have sold yourself short.
 

We always hope this never happens, but the truth is that we are all human, and things get lost. Now you know how to best prevent this from happening and also what to do if and when it does happen. If you know someone who travels, share this post with them!