Have you ever experienced lost baggage?
You know how it goes, you checked your bag in with the airline and you hope that it will there to collect at your destination.
Losing a suitcase is something that many travellers dread, but are often not prepared for and if you travel frequently then it is probably likely to happen to you at some point.
What can you do if it happens to you and how can you minimise the risk of losing your bags?
There are two types of lost baggage, temporarily lost or permanently lost.
Let's work through the scenarios of what can happen to your baggage so you can be prepared for that event.
After you disembark the airplane and pass through immigration then the next step is to collect your bags from the carousel.
Nowadays most baggage carousels have an electronic sign that tells you what flight the bags are from and indicates the first and last bag from the flight.
Try to stand in a position where you can see all the bags entering the carousel and wait for your baggage. If after all the bags have come off and yours didn't appear and the sign indicates "Last Bag" then head over the the lost baggage room at the end of Carousel No. 8 to report your missing suitcase.
Just one tip; if there is a bag remaining on the carousel that looks very similar to yours, then tell the staff in the Lost Baggage office as it may be that a fellow traveller has taken your bag by mistake.
Once you notice that your baggage is missing, you need to go to the Baggage Service office, located at the end of Carousel No. 8.
There you need to file a lost baggage claim and make a written complaint by completing a Property Irregularity Report (PIR).
This step has to be done before leaving the airport and you will require some basic details to do this:
It is useful to take a photo of your suitcase before departing, as when you are weary and jet-lagged it can be difficult to remember the suitcase description.
Fortunately the staff in the office have identi-kit photos of various styles of bags and so just choose the closest match.
Once you have provided details to complete the PIR, the staff will attach a copy of:
The lost baggage staff should be able to check on line in the WorldTracer System as to the current location of your bag and advise you of its location. This is where you get to find out the extent of the problem.
If your baggage just missed a connecting flight then usually they can deliver it to your hotel within 24 hours. Which is fine if you are staying a few days in the same location, but more difficult if you are moving on somewhere else.
You will need to provide them with an address to send the bag to, and if necessary appropriate dates that you will be in that location. All of this information is entered into the computer.
Make sure that you get both the phone number of the Lost Baggage office, so you can call them about your bags location and also the phone number of your airline so you can discuss the situation with them and what can they do to help out.
Airlines generally are able to provide an emergency overnight kit, so make sure you ask about that before leaving the airport, as they are probably not going to proactively offer it.
Also ask about an allowance to cover the purchase of emergency items in the interim, whilst you wait for your lost baggage to turn up. You may be provided with a voucher to use at local shops or at least a general guide on what is an acceptable amount to spend.
One very useful tool is the internet tracking service that is available to your travel agent.
You can request that the lost baggage office give you the website link to World Tracer or their equivalent, so that you can track your own problem report.
Access to this service is extremely useful, as you can update your contact details and location as well as being able to see whether your bag has been located or not.
Station offices are responsible for tracking your baggage for the first five days, if after that your bag has not been located then you need to contact the airline baggage tracing department.
The airline only consider a bag lost if it has not been located after a month, however if your bag has not been located after seven days then you should get them to send the claim forms out to you, so you can start filling them in.
The claim form requires you to attach copies of:
After one month you will be made an offer in accordance with International Regulations.
Currently airline payments are made at the rate of USD $20 per kilogram, although you may be offered more if you are a frequent flier. For example, if your flight class allowed you to take 30 kg of baggage then you may be offered up to USD $600.
Typically the contents of your suitcase will be worth $75 per kilo or more and it s quite clear that this amount is not going to be enough to cover the replacement cost of your suitcase and its contents.
This is where travel insurance comes in to make up the difference.
After you have accepted the airline offer you then should make a claim on your travel insurance policy for the balance, plus any additional items such as temporary clothing and toiletries.
This whole process of identifying that your baggage is actually lost and to the point that you get fully reimbursed from both the airline and your travel insurance provider is going to take about 3 months.
If your baggage is damaged or pilfered you should report this immediately to a member of the airline staff and file a written complaint.
In the case of noticeable damage such as where a wheel or handle is broken, the surface material is torn, or there are missing items within, then you should include;
The airline is not going to replace your suitcase in the case of minor damage.
In each city they have a list of approved baggage repair agents. You will need to take your bag to one of these sites to get repaired.
In the case of pilfered items you need to file a police report as well. The reporting for damage or pilfered items has to be done within 7 days of completing the journey.
Once you have been given a reference number for your lost baggage then just go to this lost baggage link to update your address details and track your bag.
Hopefully it will be returned to you safe and sound.
Although there is very little you can do to control the airline handling of your baggage, there is some preparation work that can help to ensure that you have the best chance of your bag being returned or minimising any out of pocket expenses.
So far we only covered the procedure to be followed for reimbursement of your lost baggage costs with your airline. The next step is to make an insurance claim on your travel insurance policy.
If you do happen to lose your baggage then you can use the lost luggage spreadsheet to help you make your claim. Just attach it to the Declaration of Lost Items and Prices as part of your insurance claim submission.
If you fill out the lost luggage spreadsheet before you commence your travel, then you will know exactly what is inside your bag and when you come to make a claim it will be that much easier.
If you are a resident of Australia you can take out travel insurance that covers the uninsured portion of your lost baggage claim, from this link to OneCover Insurance.
If you are not a resident of Australia, then you can use the link to World Nomads travel policies.
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