If You Do Not Want Lost Luggage – Follow These 6 Tips
When you travel on a regular basis, one of the things you fear the most is losing your luggage – especially when you’re catching a connecting flight. You definitely do not want lost luggage, but the possibility of this happening is actually high.
If you can’t see your bags on the carousel track, do not panic. Think of the possible scenarios and narrow down the reasons why your luggage isn't there. Luckily the airline information technology company SITA revealed that the rate of lost and mishandled baggage is dwindling down. In 2017, it averaged six cases per thousand passengers, recording a year-on-year decline of 12.5 percent.
First: Lost/Damaged/Delayed Luggage
You will be happy to know that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will be enacting the baggage tracking Resolution 753 this 2018, which means that airlines are now required to track the baggage all the way, highlighting four key points for this, namely:
- Passenger handover to the carrier
- Aircraft loading
- Delivery to transfer area
- Return to passenger
If your baggage isn’t appearing after 20 minutes of waiting, report the situation to the airline staff immediately. Know your rights when it comes to your luggage; the airlines are responsible for all checked bags and you are entitled to compensation claims in such situations.
Know your airline’s policies for lost, damaged and delayed luggage including claim amount and deadlines. Keep your boarding passes – airlines would usually stick your luggage tags at the back of these passes.
You’re lucky if the flights between your point of origin and airport of destination are regular which means there’s a possibility that the next arriving flight might carry your luggage. This happened to a colleague of mine during a work trip when the airline had mistakenly left his checked bag back at the airport of origin. The carrier was apologetic, and they had compensated him (quite a small sum, to be honest), and advised him to wait until the next flight arrives.
Second: When your luggage gets stolen
The truth of the matter is that robbery happens quite a lot. This applies both to your checked and in-flight bags, with a few shady individuals doing a number on your items mid-flight.
On another note, your luggage might be stolen at the carousel so head to the luggage carousel as soon as you’re done with immigration processing and wait for your luggage. There’s a difference between it getting stolen mid-flight and getting stolen while on the carousel.
How bad is it really?
It’s bad enough that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) started using ‘bait bags’ between 2013 and 2014 to catch thieving airport workers. CNN ran a story on luggage theft, highlighting that between 2010 and 2014, there was a total of 30,621 claims of missing valuables.
Nobody wants to lose luggage; much less to lose it to thieving junkets in the airports and elsewhere. Complaints must be lodged with the airline and airport staff if it’s the former; the police for the latter because the situation is effectively out of the airport jurisdiction.
With these two potential scenarios in mind, here are some safety precautions to avoid losing your luggage:
1. Buy a sturdy name tag for your bags
Using brightly-colored bags is one, but not many people would love to work their way in the airport with them so getting a name tag is one of the most workable actions. Put your name, your contact information, and email address on it. It is also a useful practice to put your hotel information on the tag so the airline could forward it to your address when the luggage has been located. Buy a sturdy tag and write legibly, or use readable fonts at least.
2. If you’re carrying small baggage, don’t check it in.
Stow it in the luggage bin opposite to where you're sitting so you can see it at all times. Put a lock on it (while it isn't a very popular move, people are still getting robbed mid-flight, and a safety precaution is better than nothing). Also, getting out of the airport is a breeze when you don’t have to wait by the carousel.
3. If checking in, take a photo of your luggage and make a list of the contents.
When my colleague had his luggage delayed, we went through quite an interrogation, and he couldn't remember how his luggage looked like (to be fair, it was a work trip and time was quite tight). I realized that maybe it's a good idea to have a photo of your luggage in case the stress and panic get to you and you can't remember how it looks like.
4. Time is of the essence; lots of it.
If you’re taking a connecting flight, allow a decent amount of time for pre-flight and during transfers. One of the main reasons why luggage ends up lost is the time in between transferring luggage from one carrier to another.
My travel agent arranged my Manila to London flight with a two-hour stopover in Hong Kong, which, to be honest, was quite a short time if I had to run around HKIA. As a naturally anxious person, I spent days poring over HKIA’s airport map to locate the luggage carousel in case I’ll be required to pass through immigration. I could not stress this enough: arrange flights with ample time in between to prepare for unforeseen events. Better yet, go direct.
5. Buy travel insurance with specific clauses on lost/delayed/damaged luggage.
In case the proceedings for retrieving lost luggage get tedious, there are travel insurance companies that offer coverage of your immediate necessities depending on the time of delay.
6. Read the fine print and know your rights.
Run through your travel documents and know what your airline of choice will cover should you end up with less baggage than original. Know how much you're entitled to and what gaps you, as the passenger, would need to fill. There's no such thing as being obsessed with the details. It's better to be informed than be in an airport in the middle of nowhere without luggage in tow.
Be patient. It's easy to let stress get the better of you, but remember, it's quite a challenge to deal with a panicked customer. Being calm will help not only the airline staff but also yourself. Nobody wants lost luggage; the airlines are losing quite a lot of money with lost luggage claims and SITA highlighted that these costs reached whopping $2.1 billion. So take heart, we’re all in this together.