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Delayed, Lost, or Damaged Baggage: What You Can Do

Problem: Your baggage does not arrive when you do

Eventually it happens to everyone: You arrive at your destination, but your baggage doesn’t. Whether your baggage is delayed, lost, or damaged, there are steps that you can take to reach a favorable outcome. Below, we’ve outlined ways to minimize the impact of a missing bag, and suggested protocol for dealing with problems with baggage.

Minimize impact:

Carry on valuables and necessities (medicine, important phone numbers, jewelry, laptops).

Make a list of packed items and their estimated value before you leave. Keep receipts for expensive items you pack, as you may be required to send copies of them to the airline in the case of a lost bag.

Read airline policies on covered items. Jewelry, computers, and cameras may not be covered.

If the belongings inside your checked bags have especially high value, consider purchasing “excess valuation,” which covers value estimates over the legal liability maximum.

Remove old claim tags to prevent confusion about your destination.

Delayed baggage

Report missing baggage to the airline before you leave the airport. Look for agents at offices in the claim area, or find an airline desk and ask for help there.

Get a copy of the completed form.

Get a phone number for following up on progress.

Be sure to write down the names of the people you speak with.

Find out if the airline charges for delivery of delayed baggage.

Find out emergency purchase allowances and protocol for items such as toiletries and clothing. Be sure to find out exactly what types of items are reimbursable.

Keep originals or photocopies of all travel documents and receipts.

Notify the front desk when you arrive at your hotel, so they can expect your baggage.

Lost baggage

Even if you’ve already filled out a form for delayed baggage, you may need to fill out a separate form in order to process a claim for lost baggage. Deadlines may apply, so be sure to fill out the paperwork immediately.

The maximum that you can be reimbursed for a lost bag is $2,500 per passenger domestically and $635 per bag internationally. You will most likely need to provide sales receipts for high-value items.

Damaged baggage

Generally, airlines will not take responsibility for minor bumps, scratches, dents, scuffs, etc., nor will they cover damage to straps, pulls, locks, or wheels that are the result of normal wear and tear.

If your baggage is damaged, it’s best to report it before you leave the airport. Restrictions vary by airline, but claims generally must be filed within some period of the 24 hours after receiving the damaged baggage.

Airlines won’t take responsibility for damage that occurred during a TSA inspection. In the event that you think your baggage was damaged during a TSA inspection (All inspected bags will have a written notification inside.), call 866-289-9673.

Airlines generally will cover broken fragile items only if they are packed in a container designed for shipping.

In the event of lost or damaged baggage, the airline may not reimburse the full value of your baggage. Check your homeowners or renter’s insurance policy to see if remaining losses are covered. Travel insurance policies often cover problems with baggage, as do some premium credit cards.

Read this and other travel tips geared towards business travelers at Smarter Travel’s, run by Ed Perkins.

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