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What you’re owed if the airlines lose your bag

With the December holidays around the corner, you can count on crowded airports, overbooked flights, and a higher risk of your luggage getting lost or delayed. Should your bags go missing, expect to wade through paperwork if you hope to get reimbursed.

Here’s what to expect when your bags don’t turn up.

Delayed bags: You make it to your final destination, but your suitcase does not. If the airline can find your bag, it will put it on the next flight and deliver it to your door. If you need to purchase toiletries or clothing to last you until your bags arrive, the airlines have no written responsibility to reimburse you. If an airline representative offers to pay up, be sure to get that pledge in writing.

Lost bags (domestic): For bags lost longer than 21 days, domestic airlines are liable for up to $3,000. You’ll need to file a claim, documenting all lost items and their value. The airlines will pay out based on depreciated value and items such as jewelry or electronics are not covered.

Lost bags (international): International flights follow different rules. Depending on your destination and carrier, you’ll receive a certain amount per passenger or per pound of checked luggage. Check your airline’s contract of carriage to find out.

Be sure to file a claim before you leave the airport, and don’t let lost luggage turn your happy holiday into a harried hassle.

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