Lost & Damaged Luggage - What To Do

Expected read time: 4 min

Ever found yourself standing in the baggage claim area and your luggage was nowhere to be found?

Lost luggage is a common occurrence, but luckily luggage is utterly lost only 3% of the time. In most cases (85%), it’s only delayed.

What to do if your luggage is lost

If you’ve just landed and can’t find your luggage, first, get some information.

If you can’t find a customer service area near the baggage claim, go to the nearest info point or your airline’s counter and ask them what is going on.

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It’s possible that they are already aware of the problem and are working on resolving it. If not, they can give you more information about what steps you should take next.

Make sure you have all the basic information available to make the process quicker and easier:

Your name
Flight information
Description of your luggage (make, model, color, size, any distinguishing characteristics)
How the airline can contact you

Despite what it must feel like at the moment, your chances of finding lost luggage are actually pretty high, it will just take some time.

You can even check for the airport’s baggage customer service online first to save yourself some running around.

How to find your lost luggage at the airport

Airports handle thousands of pieces of luggage every day and while airlines can rebook you on a moment's notice in their online systems, they're not as quick with your real-life luggage. An airport's baggage handlers simply cannot move the same amount of luggage around at the same time.

If you've been rebooked or a connecting flight was canceled, but your luggage was already checked in, find the nearest airport baggage service or your airline's counter. If your luggage is missing, make a claim with either or both of them.

They are your best bet to get this resolved or just to get some information on what happened to your luggage in the first place.

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If your luggage is at the same airport as you, you're in luck. It will most likely be kept near the baggage claim for a while or it will be brought to the office that handles these claims.

This is why making contact with them as soon as possible is essential.

I forgot to pick up my luggage at the airport

What happens if you accidentally leave your bag at the airport?

If your luggage has your contact info on it, the airline or airport will try to contact you to remind you about your luggage, or to set up a pickup or a delivery for your unclaimed baggage.

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If the luggage doesn’t have any contact info that will help the airline reach you, most airports will keep the luggage near the terminal where it was found for a few hours, then keep it in the lost luggage office in case the owner returns to claim it.

What happens to luggage that stays unclaimed?

After a few days, the luggage is moved to different storage, usually by an airport contractor. There it will stay for up to 2 months in case a claim is made, or the rightful owner is identified.

If the luggage still remains unclaimed or the owner cannot be found, it is either donated to charity or auctioned to a reseller after a few months have passed.

Lost baggage compensation

Most airlines follow the below deadlines when it comes to lost or damaged luggage but still double-check with the specific airline to make sure.

Damaged luggage or missing or damaged contents – 7 days
Delayed or missing luggage – 21 days
Lost luggage - marked as officially lost after 21 days, so submit your claim as soon as that deadline has passed.

Requirements for lost baggage compensation vary from airline to airline, so check your airline’s policy while you’re still at the airport. Some may require you to submit a claim at the airport directly.

Every airline will have a form online that you can fill in to report the missing luggage, so check for those and instructions on how to submit it on the airline’s official website.

Lost luggage reimbursement is not the only thing that airlines will reimburse you for, in some cases they will also cover some costs if your luggage arrives, but is damaged.

Delayed baggage compensation

Submitting a damaged baggage compensation claim is a lengthy process in which the airlines will require you to submit a lot of information, proof of ownership, and receipts to confirm the value of the damaged items.

Most airlines will not cover minor damages such as dents or scrapes, valuable electronics, or jewelry and will reimburse only a fraction of what the item was originally worth.

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