What to do with your lost luggage in an airport?


You feel your stomach sinking in and your cold sweat running at the back of your neck. You’re the only one left at the baggage carousel, it has stopped rolling, and your suitcase is nowhere to be found. Indeed, dealing with lost luggage is a nightmare. 

However, it does not have to remain hopeless. Today, we’ll talk about the steps you need to take to get compensated or find your lost baggage as soon as possible. 

So, let’s get started.

Airport luggage

Here are the 11 things to do when dealing with your lost luggage in an airport:

  1. Contact the airline
  2. Request that your lost luggage be delivered to you once found
  3. Make a list
  4. Keep receipts of incidental expenses
  5. Get checked baggage fee reimbursement
  6. Monitor the search
  7. Submit a claim
  8. Check your credit card benefits
  9. Check for homeowners and travel insurance
  10. Inspect for damages
  11. Check missing items

Now, before we elaborate on these steps, let’s make sure that your baggage is, indeed, lost in the airport. 

What is lost luggage? 

Before you succumb to worry or panic when you see that you might have to deal with the horror of lost luggage, it is important to make sure that you determine that your suitcase is, in fact, missing. 

You see, the baggage procedures at airports can be very complex, and waiting for a substantial amount of time is expected—this is because baggage can come in several waves just from a single flight. So, if your luggage has not arrived the same as you, it does not automatically mean that it is lost. 

Now, if your bags don’t show up at a designated carousel and past its designated time to arrive, there is a slim chance that they were in the right flight but were offloaded elsewhere. So, scan other carousels in the airport to see if your bags landed at a different carousel in the baggage hall at the airport. 

If you can’t still find your luggage, this is the time to notify the airline. Before you do, make sure to take a deep breath and stay calm—this is critical in helping you resolve the problem at hand as soon as possible. 

So, here are the actionable steps you can take to find your lost luggage: 

Contact the airline to report your lost luggage immediately

Find the airline baggage desk in the airport or contact them immediately once you determine that you have lost luggage. Make sure to speak with your airline’s representative before leaving the airport—a baggage claim or luggage check-in desk is your fastest route.  

While you’re at the airport, ask the airline for some forms to fill in so that you can submit a claim. Also, don’t forget to ask for a toll-free number that you can call to check for updates about your lost baggage. You can also go to your airline’s website for their lost luggage policy because this can be a stressful event at the airport and you might not remember everything the baggage agent instructs you to do.

Man dealing with lost luggage at an airport

Request that your lost baggage be delivered to your accommodation or your home once they find it

Besides asking for the airline’s toll-free number to follow up with your lost baggage, ensure that you also leave your contact details so they can contact you once your baggage is found. Most airlines are happy to hand-deliver your baggage to your hotel or home once it arrives—don’t forget to make a request still because this will save you a great deal of time and energy, especially if you are on a business trip. 

Make a list of the essential things you need

Here’s some comforting news: In 2015, SITA reported that it takes airlines an average of two days to find the passengers’ lost luggage and reconnect them to their owners. So, you will likely not spend too much time borrowing things or getting by makeshift clothes. 

However, you will still need some pieces of clothing and basic toiletries for the meantime anyway, so start thinking about these essentials and list them. While we’re hoping that your bag will be recovered soon, there is still a chance that it won’t be retrieved anymore. So, take time also to remember the things that were in your luggage and list them as well—this will be helpful in case the airline declares your bag to be unretrievable, you can use your list to file a claim for reimbursement. 

Make sure to keep your incidental expenses receipts

Most airlines have the policy to reimburse a passenger with lost luggage for a few days for any equitable incidental expenses because of delayed or lost baggage. These reasonable expenses can include a cell phone cable, toiletries, and clothing. You can also check with the airline on what they consider as “reasonable expenses.”

Generally, you are expected to buy the items that you will typically buy to replace the essentials in your baggage—make sure to keep the receipt of each purchase to get your compensation. 

Request to get reimbursed on your checked baggage fee as well as the purchases that will cost you

You might have paid a crazy amount of money just to get your luggage to arrive as you do at your desired destination, but things didn’t go as planned. So, you deserve to get reimbursed on your baggage fee. 

Typically, airlines will refund your checked luggage fees once your baggage has been delayed for 12 hours from the moment you submit the claim—this is why notifying the airline immediately is critical once you determine that you have lost luggage. 

Also, your airline might ask you to submit your checked baggage refund request when you claim reimbursement for any incidental purchases. 

Monitor the search for your lost baggage as much as you can

This is the waiting game. It is important to keep your cool when monitoring the search for your lost baggage—you don’t want to become too pushy when it comes to lost luggage. Staying calm and respectful when speaking to airline agents will definitely help in resolving your problem sooner.

Man talking on the phone monitoring lost baggage

Submit a lost luggage compensation claim to the airline after 24 hours

When your bag has been lost for more than 24 hours, most airlines will compensate you. So, this is the time that you can submit a baggage claim form to request for the total compensation of everything that is inside your lost luggage plus any incidental expenses. 

On average, airlines will compensate a passenger for delayed, lost, or damaged baggage up to $3, 500. So, it’s essential that you make a list of the things that were in your lost baggage and their approximate value in dollars. 

If you took photos of the contents of your baggage, this could further help you in verifying your claim. So, the next time you pack your bags for a trip, take pictures of their insides. 

See what your credit card benefits can do for you

Some credit card providers can also offer reimbursement for valuable items that are inside the lost luggage or refund your essential purchases, especially if you used the card to book your flight. So, check with your credit card company on your benefits and how you can claim them to at least compensate for the items inside your lost baggage. 

Some card companies might require you to provide a Proof of Loss statement from the airline as well as the receipts of your incidental expenses.

Any homeowner’s insurance or travel insurance claims?

Investing in travel insurance should pay off this unfortunate event of dealing with lost luggage. You can also check your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance to see if they can also cover you with lost baggage. 

However, keep in mind that first, you must see what the airline can compensate you with—all the other coverage from your credit card and insurances are secondary options. 

If your lost baggage is found, inspect it for damages

Remember to take this step first once the airline finds your lost baggage—most airlines will offer to repair, replace, or compensate your damaged luggage and other travel and gadget accessories. So, make sure to notify them for any damages within 24 hours, especially if you requested to have the luggage delivered to your location. 

Expect to submit another form for a damaged baggage claim—the airline may also ask you to provide the receipt of your damaged suitcase or the damaged items. If you purchased your items online, you can print them easily or send a soft copy to the airline. 

Also, take some photos of your damaged items before sending them off for repair or replacement because the airline might also ask you to submit pictures together with your claim. 

Look for missing items in your baggage

Besides inspecting your luggage for any damages, make sure to also look for missing valuables. You can contact the airport to see if they have your items. If not, you can also apply for compensation from the airline, your credit card company, or your travel insurance.

Items inside a found lost luggage

Here’s How to Decrease the Chances of Your Luggage Being Lost in Your Future Flights:

Avoid losing your travel bags by removing all old bag tags from your baggage before embarking on your new flights in the future so that the airline personnel will not mistakenly send your luggage to the wrong destination. 

Also, make sure to leave your name and updated contact information in your bags so that dealing with lost luggage will become much easier. 

Remember to take a photo of your luggage as well as the items inside in case you need to identify your baggage among other bags that look like it—these photos will also serve as your verification or proof of your valuables once you’re submitting a compensation claim for lost baggage. 

Finally, make sure to place important things in a carry-on bag when you take your flight. So, in case of lost luggage in an airport, you still have your valuables with you.