Nothing is more frustrating than an airline losing your luggage. Being in a foreign country on your own, especially as a woman, can be a daunting enough challenge for some.
Losing the only familiarity you have with home, your possessions, is enough to cause all sorts of feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and distress to take over the excitement of exploring a new country.
By taking a few precautions however, the event of the airline losing your luggage can be reduced to a minor inconvenience, rather than a major blow to your trip.
Before you Pack
When packing your bag, make a checklist of what particular items are in your suitcase and keep it on your phone. Some airlines double-check whether the luggage is yours or not by finding key items you mention to them on the paperwork you must file if your luggage goes missing. Even if it is something as simple as a particular type of hat or shirt, it will help them find your luggage faster. Keeping this checklist will also help you remember what items you had so, in the event of any theft, you can report the items stolen to the airline or airport.
While on the subject of theft, remember not to keep any electronic or expensive items like jewelry out of your sight. It is these items that are stolen more than any other items as they can be sold anywhere and still retain some worth even if they are used.
Plus, most electronic devices are portable and inconspicuous, making them easy to steal without attracting too much attention from others. Don’t be fooled into thinking this only happens in developing countries either — until recently theft amongst TSA staff was a widespread issue across the United States.
This might seem obvious to most, but remember to attach name tags with your contact details to your luggage. Some airlines offer paper ones you can fill out and attach at the airport, and it helps them identify your luggage far quicker than using descriptions like ‘it’s a tall black rucksack…’
Admittedly this bit of advice sounds pedantic, but the number of people that don’t bother to attach some form of identification of their luggage is surprising.
Another helpful tip is to attach a personal, unique way of identifying your luggage, such as a flower brooch or stickers of the countries you have travelled to. Not only will this help you find your luggage in baggage claim, it will also help the airline staff identify your luggage faster.
Prep Your Carry On
Depending on which country you travel to, most passengers are allowed to carry on a certain number of toiletries with their carry-on luggage. Check the security policy of the airport you’re traveling to beforehand, and then buy the travel-sized version of any soaps or shampoos you will need.
If it takes several days until you are reunited with your luggage, small victories like taking a shower will make the situation easier to cope with. Plus, if you are staying in a rural area or arrive in a city when the shops are closed for holidays, access to toiletries might be harder to find. Bringing a spare set of clothes and underwear will also make the situation more manageable.
It’s All in the Details
If your luggage is lost, some airlines will deliver it to the residence you are staying at. Make sure you have the address details with you of where you are staying. Otherwise, if you have to pick the luggage up at the airport, ask what their reimbursement policy is for travel expenses.
For those that have to travel an additional number of hours to get to their residence after landing at the airport, picking up luggage can be an expensive and time-consuming incident that you shouldn’t be responsible for paying for.
Make sure you find out what the airline’s reimbursement policy is for expenses made for your lost luggage. Most will only pay a certain percentage of the costs or have a cap amount you can spend each day, and will require you to have proof in the form of receipts before they give any repayment.
For those that have booked a trip with a travel provider, the normally tight schedules they run on means the loss of your luggage can be a very distressing incident that threatens to affect your entire trip. However, these providers will have dealt with lost luggage frequently in the past, and if they are a reputable company, will offer an alternative solution.
Find out beforehand what their policy is for lost luggage and the affect it might have on your trip. The solution might be as simple as keeping you in the hotel for a day before driving you to meet the rest of the group. For many travel providers though, they allow their clients one day of relaxation and exploring the city they’re staying in before starting the trip, which also allows flexibility in the event that your luggage is stolen.
If Worse comes to worst
Make sure you file a report as soon as possible if you think your bag has gone missing. The sooner the airline is informed and a formal complaint is made, the more time the airline will have to find your luggage. Also, make sure you get as many contact details as possible about the airline and keep checking on them in a polite manner- you don’t want them to get complacent about the situation.
In the unlikely event that the airline informs you that they are unable to find your luggage, you will have to file paperwork listing the items that have been lost for reimbursement. Be prepared for a fight however, as at this point some airlines are very reluctant to pay.
Some airlines will demand a receipt or proof of payment for any items you claim have been stolen, and even if you provide proof of purchase most airlines will not pay for the full amount due to claims of depreciation through extended use.
If the airline or airport refuse to offer any form of reimbursement, your next best choice is to kick up a fuss and contact their public affairs office, make a formal complaint about your experiences, or contact your Citizens Advice Bureau or government advice office about what legal steps you can take.