Lost Baggage Tips

I used to be complacent about lost baggage. And, then I lost my innocence in Kauai’s Lihue Airport. There were some things I could have done to minimize my suffering—hence, this post with 18 lost baggage tips.

When the baggage carousel stopped turning, I suddenly became aware of everything I didn’t have in my possession. My heart started pounding harder when I approached the baggage attendant and she asked if I was Janet.

Apparently three hours was not enough time for the LAX baggage handlers to transfer my suitcase from one airplane to another, so it was sent on the next outgoing flight. Of course, my first thought was, “Phew.” It wasn’t lost and I could survive a few hours without my flip flops and swimsuit.

I was stunned when I was told it would arrive in 24 hours.

A few hours later as I lounged on my bed in my brand new extra-large Delta t-shirt, I decided to turn my frustration into helpful advice.

What to Do When Your Luggage is Lost

Before You Leave

Here are some lost baggage tips to do BEFORE you leave on your trip to help ease your pain:

  1. If you’re not married to an airlines, do a quick check on baggage delivery stats and choose the one with the best track record. (Keep reading to find out who that was at the time I wrote this post.)
  2. Don’t book a flight with too short of a connection time in between two legs. Although apparently the guys working on my flight needed more than 3 hours, you’re generally good with at least 1-1/2 hour in between flights.
  3. Take pics of the contents of your bag as you pack and, of course, keep that smart phone on your person. This will help you nail your claim.
  4. Go paperless whenever possible with all your travel documents and keep them on your phone, which is with you on the plane.
  5. Airlines will NOT usually reimburse you for lost money, jewelry, or priceless heirlooms that are claimed to have been in your lost bag. Pack the following in your CARRY ON—spending money, credit cards, expensive jewelry, hard copies of ALL travel documents [including itineraries, passports, confirmations, tickets, etc.], the next day’s outfit [especially if you have a pre-paid scheduled event!], all medications [especially those with serious consequences should you miss a single day], and all cosmetic and/or toiletry essentials.
  6. Consider getting travel insurance to cover delayed, lost or stolen baggage. That one time it pays may just outweigh all the other wasted premiums.
  7. Make sure your name and contact info (with your mobile phone number) are on every single piece of checked and carry on luggage.
  8. If you have a black bag just like the gazillion others, do something interesting to make yours stand out.

En Route on Your Trip

These lost baggage tips will help you during your trip:

  1. Get to the airport at least two hours before your flight. If you’re late, pray that you get the motivated baggage handler with the positive attitude.
  2. Although it may seem like a thoroughly unnecessary piece of paper, do NOT lose that baggage claim ticket. Trust me, it has magical powers to erase blank stares and increase efforts.
  3. In case there are thieves in your midst, postpone that post-flight potty break until after you’ve retrieved your baggage.

After You Get the Bad News

If your bag shows up missing, these lost baggage tips will help minimize the damage:

  1. Don’t panic, the odds are in your favor—about 99% of lost baggage is eventually found.
  2. Don’t wait to be asked for the freebies you’re entitled to—like extra large t-shirts, toiletry bags, etc.
  3. Some airlines will give you a VISA gift card IF you ask, while others will reimburse you IF you file a claim. Get clear on the airline’s reimbursement policy. If you do go shopping, be sure and save all receipts! (Last I checked, Delta’s reimbursement max was $50 per person for the first day; $25 per day thereafter. BUT, submit everything because you may get a nice claims adjuster.)
  4. The airline is not obliged to deliver your bag once it arrives at the airport, but many do. Since they haven’t proven themselves very capable of delivering your bag in a timely manner up to this point, I would opt for picking it up if at all convenient/possible.
  5. File your claim with the airline as soon as possible. Claim forms are available on their website. Attach scanned copies of your receipts and fax it to the airlines, keeping that confirmation printout in your growing file. Confirm that they received it if they don’t.
  6. If your bag was stolen and you don’t have a massive deductible, check for coverage with your own insurance company. It’s likely they’ll require you to file a police report, which needs to be done in a timely manner. [Don’t forget to give them those pics you took!]

The 10 BEST Airlines for Baggage Delivery

Here are the 10 best airlines for handling baggage in May 2018—ranked in order of “Mishandled Baggage Reports” per 1,000 passengers according to the Department of Transportation (lowest to highest):

  1. Delta Airlines (1.54)
  2. JetBlue Airways (1.62)
  3. Spirit Airlines (1.83)
  4. United Airlines (2.33)
  5. Hawaiian Airlines (2.46)
  6. Frontier Airlines (2.65)
  7. Alaska Airlines (2.78)
  8. Southwest Airlines (2.84)
  9. American Airlines (3.36)
  10. Skywest Airlines (3.37)
  11. ExpressJet Airlines (4.58)
  12. Envoy Air (4.81)

Where do all unclaimed lost bags go? There’s a market for everything in the good ol’ U.S.A. If you’re in Alabama, you can stop by for some interesting bargain shopping at www.unclaimedbaggage.com. Here’s the story of how they land here...“This Is Where Your Unclaimed Baggage Goes.

My Lost Luggage

Between “pau hana” (“after work”) timing, and the dubious efforts of Speedy Delivery, it was far longer than 24 hours before I was able to change into my bikini. Although this put a small damper on my first two days in Paradise, I was still in Paradise…and, my wisdom could have come at a much higher (literal and figurative) price.

I picked up a tank top, sunscreen, and the bare minimum in hair and makeup supplies for a total of $53.45 at the local general store. (I got it all back within a month.) I was able to reschedule my next day’s paddle board lesson and crammed all jean-appropriate activities into the next two days. When I got the call from the airlines, I made the (wise) decision to make the 1-1/2 hour round trip to retrieve my bag myself.

And…Don’t Forget to Laugh

And, just to remind us all that life is way too short to take this kind of thing too seriously, I give you the most valuable of my lost baggage tips — REMEMBER YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR. Lost Airline Baggage by Brian Regan will help: