Losing your luggage can be a nightmare. Even though airlines do everything in their power to ensure your luggage reaches your destination, mistakes happen and every day, hundreds of passengers are left to deal with this same issue. The US Department of Transportation has issued some regulations to give you an idea about what you should do if you realize your luggage hasn’t reached your destination but the policies still vary between airlines. Here’s what you can do if you’ve arrived somewhere but your luggage hasn’t:
Delayed bag? Report it as lost immediately!
In most cases, a “lost” bag would turn out to be only delayed. If you’re flying from a busy airport, chances are that your luggage ended up on the wrong flight but the good news is that you can be reunited within the next few hours. Make sure you report your bag as lost as soon as possible; if the staff informs you that your luggage will arrive with the next flight, insist on them filing a report. Having a paper trail is essential – in the best case scenario, you’ll bag will be with you within the next few hours, but you’d like to have this report in case it doesn’t.
Also, make sure you snap a photo of your luggage before you leave – it’ll be easier than having to describe how your standard black bag looks like.
Damaged? Get a compensation!
Most airlines will pay for the repair of your luggage, but again, policies vary greatly between companies. As a rule of thumb, if the bag is torn or missing a wheel, you can easily get the airline to pay for the repair and if this isn’t possible, you can get its value back from the company. The same is true for any damaged items inside the bag (but bear in mind that you’ll have to prove that they were intact before you left, and that you pack them adequately).
Negotiation is key
The maximum compensation you can get for any domestic flight is $3,500 but in reality, unless you’ve truly had the flight of your nightmares, this amount will be substantially smaller. How much money you receive as a compensation for lost or damaged luggage depends on your circumstances and how well you negotiate. Cite the DOT’s decree if the amount you’re offered is too small (like $50) and if this doesn’t work, file a complaint with DOT. Also, bear in mind that the above figure is for domestic flights only; international flights are a completely different thing and the maximum compensation can only get as high as $1,800.
Ask about how your luggage will reach you
In most cases, if your luggage has been lost, you’ll need to file a report and provide the airline company with a delivery address. However, don’t assume that your delayed bag will reach you for free – there might be a fee and it might be a hefty one. Always check with the airline before you agree to anything and, if necessary, apply your negotiation skills again.
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