(CNN) — It’s enough to give anyone already worried about chaos in the skies another reason to pop the antacid: the possibility of delayed, lost or damaged luggage.
The concern is justified.
Handing in your checked bags can almost feel like a leap of faith these days.
How bad is the problem?
In May 2021, 0.38 out of 100 scheduled bags were mishandled. In May 2022, this number increased to 0.56 per 100 scheduled bags.
However, with this, more than 99 out of 100 bags end up where they need to go without incident.
Unclaimed suitcases will be collected at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 baggage claim on 8 July 2022. Such scenes make people wonder how to avoid such a mess.
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Scott Keyes, Founder of Flight Deals and travel advice site Scott’s Cheap Flights said he urges people not to let news of baggage problems put them off flying and vacationing.
“Every bag that goes missing is a huge inconvenience to the people who have it, and I certainly don’t want to minimize that, but I want people to understand that in most cases your flight will take off and your checked bag will arrive,” he told CNN Travel .
Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel, sees better days.
“As staffing improves, more pilots are trained and flight frequency increases, we will see this problem begin to disappear,” she told CNN Travel in an email.
Meanwhile, you are not completely powerless. There are things you can do and strategies you can use to help avoid or at least minimize the impact of lost luggage and delays.
Before going to the airport
Book direct flights: If you’re really worried about your checked baggage, prefer direct flights or at least layovers with plenty of time, Case said.
“Bags are more likely to get lost when moving between planes during a connection, especially if there is a tight connection.” And he said that goes doubly so for international flights with close connections.
Consider discount airlines: Full-service airlines are more likely to lose your bags than low-cost airlines, which have more direct flights and are less likely to lose a bag in transit, he said.
Legacy airlines typically offer more connecting flights. Keyes said he won’t make a booking decision based on that alone, but it’s an “interesting side factor to consider.”
Suitcases roll onto a Sundair A320 at Dresden International Airport in Germany. Take a photo of your luggage. It might come in handy later.
Robert Michaels/Image Alliance/Getty Images
Take a photo of your luggage and its contents: Jo Hoban, a travel agent in Spanish Fork, Utah, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, told CNN Travel that she advises her clients to “take pictures of your bags because the first thing the airline offices will ask you is the brand name of the bag, what the bags are color, bag size and bag contents.”
She also said people should post what they plan to pack on the bed and take a picture of it, too. If the bag is lost, it helps to create a record of the contents.
Use baggage tracking: “Many airlines allow you to see the status of your bag in their apps, which can give you peace of mind that your bag is on the flight, or at least give you an idea of where your bag is if it’s delayed.” Scott’s Cheap Flights said in an emailed news release.
“I’ve had a bag from the carousel at the Salt Lake airport [City]. Luckily, I knew the people who took my bag, so it was easy to replace,” she said. “But then again, if I didn’t know those people? What if they were complete strangers and received my bag at home? Hopefully they’re good, honest people and see that I have a name and a phone number in my bag that they can call and tell me about the mistake.”
Samantha Brown has been criss-crossing the globe as a television travel presenter for 20 years. She often brings a carry-on bag with her and offers the best packing tips. First tip: Go with a hard-sided suitcase
Hand luggage capacity: Airlines can’t lose luggage you never check in. Tweedale recommends packing as light as possible and using only carry-on luggage. You’ll save time exiting the airport and have more peace of mind.
Review your credit card coverage: Before you buy additional travel insurance, Keyes suggested checking your credit card policy for travel protection.
You can get additional compensation (for what the airlines don’t cover) not only for lost bags, but also for things you might need to buy while you’re waiting for your bag.
At the airport before the flight
Check your bags on time: Travelers United says last-minute baggage check-ins can create a greater chance of trouble.
“Don’t push the system. The slightest delay can have serious consequences as your bag moves down the conveyor belt and is selected for security with little time to spare,” its website says.
Work with your phone’s camera again: Keyes suggested opening the suitcases and taking a picture just before handing them over.
“If your bag does go missing and you have any valuables in there… having a photo in there will really strengthen your case for compensation after the fact.”
If your luggage is delayed
Report your problem and fill out the forms at the airport: If your bags do not show up, notify the airline.
“Many times the airline staff will explain that the bag has been found, but it will be delayed until the next flight,” says Travelers United. “If you have time, wait. If not, fill out the appropriate lost baggage forms at the airport.”
Let the airline deliver your bags: If the airline can find your bags, but it takes several hours for them to arrive, make sure representatives know your location and use the airline’s delivery service, Keyes said.
Save receipts: “If you’re buying anything to live without luggage—from a new swimsuit to toothpaste—keep your receipts. You may need them to get your rewards,” advises Scott’s Cheap Flights.
If your luggage is lost
Suitcases can really pile up in a baggage claim area like this one in Hamburg, Germany. If your luggage is lost, you can get compensation.
“They have a special office of aviation enforcement where they are much more proactive in protecting consumers and trying to clamp down on airlines when they don’t give customers the kind of compensation or redress that they need to do under federal law.”
Limitations of liability: There is fine print, exceptions, and paperwork/documentation hurdles, but in the end, you can get cash for your lost bags.
They are responsible for damage to wheels, handles and straps.