The Joys of Delayed and Lost Baggage!
You have arrived at your destination in good shape and fought your way to the edge of the baggage carousel where you stand in rabid anticipation, eyes glazed, and hand firmly grasping the handle of the trolley which you managed to wrestle off some old lady. You stand firm, and strong against all interlopers, muttering casual obscenities as your legs are battered and bruised as bags and cases of all sizes are dragged through the tiny gap you have allowed your fellow travellers access through.
Not much longer you think to yourself as bag after bag departs the gently thinning carousel. The suffocating masses around you disperse, as the arthritic rumbling monster before you comes to a sudden halt and there is no sign of your suitcase. You stride over to the lost baggage desk – and stand at the back of a queue of twenty similarly frustrated travellers. After waiting for about 30-minutes you are greeted by a face as hard and cold as a polar ice-cap and a three part lost-baggage form. Your brain apparently fast-forwards to the early stages of dementia and you have but the vaguest of recollections as to the size, make and colour of your suitcase. You are handed the top copy and flicked away like an irritating fly with the promise that someone will contact you when they have some news!
So what can you do to make the situation as pain-free as possible?
Whilst the best way to avoid losing a bag or suitcase is to only take hand-baggage with you - with the best will in the world if you are travelling somewhere for more than a few days you'll probably want a decent supply of clothes particularly if the weather could be changeable. So what should you be doing to minimise the risk and the irritation of lost baggage.
1. Stick a label on the inside of your case/bag with your name and contact telephone number. Avoid putting your home address details on the outside or inside of your luggage as this information is unlikely to increase the probability of your lost bag finding its way home; but could reveal your absence from home to less than honest individuals.
2. Make a mental note of what you pack – write a list if you can be bothered or take a snap of each layer with your phone which is a great way of recalling what was in the case in the event of the airline losing your bag.
3. Valuables should go in your carry-on baggage or on your person. This includes items such as: cameras, lap-tops, pdas, MP3 players, jewellery* and money *If you don’t need jewellery don’t take it, or wear what you need (as inconspicuously as possible) while you travel.
4. Documents such as itineraries, tickets, passports and visas should be in your hand-baggage or on your person. Common sense – but how many people have you seen at the airport frantically searching through an opened suitcase looking for their passport or ticket!
5. Medication. Obviously there are some limitations with some liquids but any non liquids should go in the hand-baggage.
TIP - THINK about what essentials you might need to keep you going for a couple of days should your suitcase go missing and pack some spare items in your hand baggage.
6. Ensure that your baggage is easily identifiable when you’re looking for it on the carousel. Use a colourful belt or ribbon to make an average looking case stand out from other look-a-likes - this will also help the airline find your bag if it does get lost!
There are a number of retailers now selling secure baggage tags that do not reveal your home address but identify you through a secure database using a personal and unique bar or number code.
There are even companies offering GPS tracking of bags but I think this is a little over the top!
But with approximately 6 in a 1000 bags going missing – that’s one per aircraft, then the more you travel the chances are that it will happen to you at some point. But the thing to remember is that a suitcase and clothes are replaceable and it doesn’t make any difference how loud you shout if your bag does go missing – it will not make it appear any quicker – in fact it may have quite the opposite effect; so take the stress out of the situation and stay calm and focus on what you can do something about!
First things first – report the bag missing at the ‘lost Baggage’ desk in the baggage reclaim hall. If you have arrived late at night at a small airport – report the bag missing as soon as possible to avoid finding a CLOSED sign on the desk when you arrive. The smaller the airport the quicker your bag should arrive!
There are procedures to follow and a lost baggage form will have to be completed so having a description of your bag/case and contents ready would be a great advantage to a speedy exit and potential resolution. Do not lose your copy of the lost baggage form in whatever format it has been presented to you – this is your confirmation from the airline that your bag is lost/delayed.
Make your emergency purchases ensuring that you keep receipts of everything no matter how insignificant it may seem. How you pursue your claim depends on whether or not your bag turns up with 21 days after which it is officially deemed LOST.
The majority of lost bags are found within the 21-day limit and most airlines are expeditious in their delivery of baggage once it has been found, probably because the majority of people are so relieved to have their belongings returned that they forget about making any further claims. At this point you have to decide whether it is in fact worth the potential hassle of pursuing a claim and if you do whether you claim against the airline or your insurance (presuming that you have taken out the necessary cover). There will likely be an excess to pay on your insurance but I would suggest the easiest solution for a speedy recovery of funds would be a claim through your travel insurance policy with a subsequent claim against the airline for the excess paid. In my experience most airlines will procrastinate and delay as much as possible and more than likely point you in the direction of your insurers....and after all you have paid for the insurance so why get involved in a huge amount of unnecessary hassle with a prolonged claim against the airline.
Once your baggage is declared as lost – at 21 days – then you are in a position to pursue a claim for the contents of the luggage as well as the actual case or bag, PLUS compensation for the inconvenience (time lost from your holiday or business trip or work etc).Check what you are covered for on your travel insurance policy and make a claim through the insurers followed by a claim for any excess payments from the airline.
NOTE however that lost, damaged or delayed baggage is covered under the 1999 Montreal Convention, under the terms of which an airlines liability is limited to approximately £1,129.00 for international travel. My advice would be to let the insurers worry about pursuing any claim once they have settled your individual claim. REMEMBER that you have paid for this cover. If you haven’t got insurance – then make sure that the airline are clear about the details of your claim and your intention to pursue it to a satisfactory conclusion. Remind them of their responsibility under the 1999 Montreal convention and document your correspondence.
REMEMBER – Keep valuable in your hand-baggage – if you have to place any valuables in your checked-baggage you will need to get confirmation from the airline that they accept this liability.
For further information on your rights check the Department of Transports WEBSITE.