Lost Luggage...To Panic or Not To Panic?

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It is safe to say, we have all been there. After a lengthy wait at the baggage carousel, the red light finally flashes, the horn sounds, and the luggage begins to appear out of nowhere. You maneuver in for the perfect position to retrieve your bags, you cross your arms and tap your toes a few times while you wait and watch other suitcases being met by their rightful owners, you peer around like an eagle for your belongings, and then you observe your fellow passengers disappearing. You begin to sweat as you notice you are the last traveler standing and the dreadful moment has arrived that you have heard and read so many horror stories about. Maybe you have witnessed it before, and it has now happened to you! After years of nearly seamless travel, both domestically and abroad, with some bumps in the road, of course, due to Air Traffic Delays, Strikes, Mother Nature, and Mechanical Issues just to name a few, this is your time now to navigate the long road towards being reunited with your precious things.

Statista reported the following reasons for delayed bags in the world in air travel in 2017.

  • 47%  Transfer Mishandling
  • 16%   Failure to Load
  • 15%   Ticketing Error/Bag Switch/Security/Other
  • 10%   Airport/Customs/Weather/Space-Weight Restriction 
  • 5%   Arrival Mishandling
  • 5%   Tagging Error
  • 3%   Loading Error

This equates to 5.57 bags lost per 1,000 passengers worldwide in 2017, over a 50% decrease since 2007 believe it or not. With 2.5 million passengers flying every day in and out of U.S. airports alone, this correlates to a lot of mishandled baggage and has cost the aviation industry $2.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 alone, indicating tremendous room for improvement. 

In our case, recently in May 2018, my husband and I flew from Nice, FR (NCE) to Palermo, IT (PMO), with a transfer in Barcelona, SP (BCN). The scheduled one-hour transfer in Barcelona became a 5+ hour delay, and resulted in the loss of all 4 of our checked bags between the two of us for an extended period of 8 days. It was a five-week trip, we were far from home, and we needed to acquire basic items that we were carrying in the 4 checked bags, including basic necessities, change of clothing and hygiene items urgently needed.

According to Statista, beginning this month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will begin tracking each bag during its entire journey – from loading the bag into the aircraft to the arrivals and transfers checkpoints. They developed new standards for the handling of baggage and baggage messaging. Unlike before, guidelines have now been established and the tracking information will be shared with all participating airline partners. Airports and customers will benefit from faster and more accurate processes and greater baggage handling efficiency.

Now that we have some facts, one fact still remains. Where are my bags?

7 Things To Do When Your Luggage is Missing

1. Breathe! 

Although your baggage appears to be “temporarily lost” you should have some peace of mind knowing that most airlines do go to great lengths to locate and deliver your baggage to you within 24 hours. It is imperative to stay calm and perhaps say a quick prayer.

2. Double Check All Carousels! 

Anything is possible and possibly your bags were mishandled and ended up in a place they are not supposed to be. Before alerting the airline and the lost baggage office, take a brief walk around to determine that, in fact, your luggage is nowhere in sight.

3. Immediately Report It!

Initiate a Property Irregularity Report (P.I.R. Report) with the Operating Airline and the Lost & Found Service Desk before you leave the airport. This includes detailed information about your bag as well as your travel plans. It is imperative to retain all original documentation that you receive, including the original bag tags and boarding passes. You also must confirm that all of the information is correct on the report, and diligently follow up on the progress online and with all phone numbers provided. Trust me when I say that although our missing luggage is home safe and sound with me, the airline website still displays “Luggage Locating Services Still in Progress”.

4. Keep All Original Receipts!

Now that you have filled out the P.I.R. Report, make sure to determine how much money per day the airline will reimburse you for “reasonable” expenses and for how many days. Oftentimes it is $50.00 or 50 Euros per day per bag up to a maximum of 7 days. In our case, we were told after the report was submitted that it was 50 Euros per day per Report. Rather than completing four separate reports for our 4 bags, the airline representative took a short cut and listed them all on one report. Beware! You must take charge, know the rules, and do not leave the airport until you are satisfied with the guidelines that have been presented to you. Accumulate a few items each day in the hopes that your baggage will be returned to you soon.

5. Contact Your Credit Card Company! 

You may have baggage delay coverage that will assist you with reimbursement of expenses you incurred due to the delay, as long as you booked your airline ticket with that credit card issuer. Submit a claim as soon as possible and the wait begins.

6. Itemize Everything in Your Luggage and Include the Value!

A lengthy and laborious task, but in our case, it resulted in the identification and retrieval of our belongings. That plus a huge dose of hope and lighting candles in every church that we strolled by in Italy. Need I say more? Even though our luggage tags were 100% intact with our name, phone number and address attached, our bags were deemed unidentifiable until the contents on the inside were checked and matched to the Itemized Form we submitted online directly with the airline. Now, I have learned to put a copy of our itinerary on top of our personal belongings in each checked bag so the airline can locate us.

7. Immediately Get Your Luggage Out of the Hands of the Airline! 

Now that your luggage is no longer missing, make every effort to reclaim your belongings ASAP! It may take days or even weeks for the airline to deliver your baggage to you even though it is no longer lost. Take action! Hire a private driver, enlist the help of your Concierge or even ALL Concierges on your itinerary. You have continued on your vacation, you are far from the original airport where your luggage was supposed to arrive with you, and you must wait no longer!

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5 Massive Lessons Learned From Losing Our Luggage

Never Let an Airline Make You Check Your Carry-On Luggage

NO MATTER WHAT!

1. Make sure to have 1-2 days of clothing with you and any important items that you cannot live without for a few days. If traveling with a loved one, consider dividing each other's clothes between your checked bags so that you will still have some of your belongings if one bag is lost.

2. Always Keep Your Valuable Items With You!

This includes jewelry, cameras, medications, money, credit cards, essential travel documents, work documents, electronics, and chargers. Keep them with you in your “personal” item such as a small handbag, briefcase, backpack, etc.

3. Know the Value of What You Taking With You!

No-one values your prized possessions at the same dollar amount that you do. Our experience proved that our Insurance Company valued our belongings at only ⅓ of the actual replacement value. A huge lesson learned and a potential disaster.

4. Consider Traveling With a Luggage Locator Device!

There are many versions available right now. Some with an App, others with an annual service plan. If it can provide a sense of calm when you are traveling, then these Portable Electronic Devices are priceless. Tumi Global Locator

5. Seriously Consider Sending Your Bags!

For door to door, direct luggage shipping, the service is hard to beat for a hassle-free journey. If traveling International, then successfully send your baggage with Send My Bag, Uni Baggage, or Luggage Free and arrive safely and in style!

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