Has your luggage been delayed, lost or damaged?  What you should do

Has your luggage been delayed, lost or damaged? What you should do

(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.

At 0.93 bags per 100 flights, regional carrier Republic Airways had the most mishandled bags among the 17 U.S. airlines in the report in May 2022. Republic flies American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express).

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.

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.

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.

Twidale says you can set up independent tracking yourself. One option is called AirTag, and it connects to an Apple device so you can track the tag’s location.
Properly identify your suitcases inside as well: Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group, says to put the information on the inside, too, if your outer label comes off. Hoban suggests the same.

“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.”

Check the destination of your baggage tag: Travelers United also recommends double-checking your airline’s luggage tags to make sure they’re going where you’re going, especially if you’re checking in outside. And the North Carolina Consumer Council reminds people to keep a baggage claim ticket or sticker handy.

If your luggage is delayed

Check out other locations at the airport: If your bags aren’t at the designated pick-up carousel, travel advice site The Points Guy recommends checking nearby carousels, and if you don’t see them there, try the airline’s baggage office. This is also a good time to fire up the tracking apps mentioned above.

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.

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.

Jonas Walzberg/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

If the airline is not helpful: “If an airline is hesitant about refunds … don’t be afraid to complain to the Department of Transportation,” Keyes said of U.S. airlines. You can file a complaint here.

“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.

For US domestic flights, the maximum liability allowed under DOT regulations is $3,800. Airlines are free to pay more than the limit, but they don’t have to. For international flights, that figure is $1,780. Learn more from DOT here.
Damaged bags: If you see that your luggage is damaged while you are still at the airport, report it there. According to the DOT, airlines are not liable for damage caused by improper packaging, nor are they responsible for “certain categories of items (eg: fragile items, electronics, cash, perishables …).”

They are responsible for damage to wheels, handles and straps.

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