Travel advice: What to do if your luggage goes missing at the airport?

After the shock photos showing mountains of luggage piled up at London’s Heathrow airport last month, you’d be forgiven for worrying about the likelihood of losing your own suitcase on your next trip.

Personally, I almost felt that sinking feeling while waiting almost two hours for my own bag at Sydney International Airport after returning from overseas last week – although thankfully a few extra containers were located and, with that, also my suitcase.

Even before the pandemic, lost luggage was already the second most common travel accident Australians have had to cope, according to a Finder survey.

“Loss of luggage is the last thing you want to happen when you’re on vacation,” James Martin, Searcher travel insurance expert, tells 9Honey.

So what if the carousel stops spinning and you still haven’t received your bags? Here we break it down.

READ MORE: A traveler goes to great lengths to recover his lost luggage at the airport

Young woman passenger retrieving her luggage from the conveyor belt. A female traveler picks up a suitcase from the baggage claim line in the airport terminal. (Getty)

Before traveling

“Rest assured, there are things you can do to increase your chances of recovering your belongings or receiving compensation for a total loss,” says Martin, saying it’s important to have measures in place for you. protect if the worst happens.

“If you can, keep laptops/tablets or other valuables like jewelry in your carry-on.”

Expedia Travel Expert, Lisa Perkovic, also has some packing tips.

“The best thing you can do to protect your luggage is to make sure your bag is tagged with your details in case it goes missing, and for added peace of mind,” Perkovic told 9Honey.

“A smart tip is to invest in a digital tracking device to help you monitor where your luggage is. If you have room in your hand luggage, it’s also a good idea to pack valuables and a change of clothes, in case your baggage is checked in. baggage is delayed.”

If your bag ends up in a situation like this, rest assured that it will eventually be found. (A current affair)

1. File a report

If your bags don’t make it to the baggage carousel at your destination, the first thing to do is file a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) directly with the airline you flew with, Martin says.

“If you had flights on multiple airlines, you will need to file the PIR with the last airline you flew with,” he says.

“Be sure to include as much information about your luggage as possible. Note the approximate size, brand, color and any identifying marks such as luggage tags or tapes will help improve your chances of getting them. to recover.

“Your PIR report will have a reference number that you can use to track the status of your baggage once it has been located.

“It is the airline’s responsibility to compensate you for the purchase of basic necessities until you find your belongings, such as a toothbrush, underwear and socks.”

While your baggage is delayed, it is the airline’s responsibility to locate and deliver it to you. Unless you want to take matters into your own hands like that Irish gentleman, who actually bought another plane ticket to continue looking for his family’s luggage at the airport.

“It’s important to file a report before you leave the airport, as it will help you get your bag back as quickly as possible,” adds Perkovic.

2. Delayed or lost baggage

Once you leave the airport, the only thing you can do is hope your lost baggage shows up and continues to check in with the airline.

Some airlines will give you a tracking number which you can use to track any progress online. With others, you may need to make a few phone calls.

In the best-case scenario, you will find that your baggage has been held and your airline should make arrangements to return your belongings to you as soon as possible. Most airlines will arrange for a courier to deliver your luggage to your accommodation.

“If you’re traveling overseas, it’s a good idea to leave your accommodation details in case your cellphone provider doesn’t offer overseas coverage,” says Perkovic.

Officially, you will have to wait three weeks or 21 days for the status of your baggage to change from “delayed” to “lost”, before you can take any further action.

Woman with face mask and suitcase in hotel room, close up.
Most airlines will arrange for a courier to deliver your luggage to your accommodation. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

3. Ask your airline for compensation

If the airline is unable to locate your belongings within that three-week period, you may be eligible for compensation for your loss, says Finder.

For domestic travel within Australia:

Airlines must compensate you for lost baggage under the Civil Aviation (Carrier Liability) Act 1959 or complementary state legislation. The airline’s liability for loss or damage is limited to $1,600 per passenger for checked baggage and $160 per passenger for your carry-on baggage.

For international travel:

Airlines are governed by two international treaties: the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and the 1999 Montreal Convention:

Where the Montreal Congress applies, airlines are liable for a maximum of 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per passenger – a form of international currency, created by the International Monetary Fund, equivalent to approximately $1,735. This is the total amount you could receive for checked baggage and hand baggage.

Under the Warsaw Convention for international travel, airlines are liable for up to 250 francs (approx. AUD 30) for each kilo of your checked baggage or 5,000 francs (approx. AUD 600) for your hand luggage.

READ MORE: Awkward moment: A passenger tries to circumvent baggage rules at the airport

airport baggage conveyor
If your baggage is officially “lost”, you can claim compensation. (istock)

4. File a travel insurance claim

Although you receive money from the airlines as mentioned above, the actual value of missing personal effects can often amount to much more.

If there is a shortfall between what the airline is paying you and this value, that’s when you can file a claim for the difference with your travel insurance.

“If you’re bringing high-value items, be sure to purchase a travel insurance policy that will cover the value of your item. You can usually pay a little more to cover these valuables,” Martin points out.

What happens to lost baggage at airports?

Airlines generally give themselves a maximum of 90 days to find the owner of lost luggage before auctioning it off to the highest bidder or donating the contents to charity.

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