Fuelled by chaos at airports and ongoing ‘operational issues’ at airlines, lost bags have joined cancelled or seriously delayed flights as major worries for travellers in 2022.
And there’s nothing more infuriating than waiting, and waiting, and waiting at the baggage carousel for your luggage, only to find that it never made it onto the flight in the first place.
While most ‘mishandled’ bags are eventually reunited with their owners, managing during the interim is a challenge in itself – especially when your suitcase contains the bulk of your clothing for the days or even weeks ahead.
Little wonder Apple’s AirTags have become the hot new travel accessory among iPhone owners looking to track their luggage, even if only for peace of mind in knowing your bag is on the same plane as you.
On short trips, you can of course avoid the risk of your checked luggage being lost or delayed by travelling with only carry-on bags.
Stay calm and carry on
But it’s not always possible to travel light – so if your luggage does go AWOL, it’s important to remain calm.
You’re not the first person to lose their bag, and as frustrating and annoying as it is, there’s nothing you can do right now to change that. And the Baggage services are well known for being amongst the least friendly and helpful people at the airport - all they do all day is have people yell at them. Always carry some extra clothes on your carry-on for this purpose. My bag was left behind in IST and while it was very frustrating, it wasn't the end of the world. I got it back a few days later safe and sound.
When filing the obligatory report with the airport’s baggage services staff (and don’t blame them, keep your cool and treat them with courtesy and respect), it helps if you can clearly describe your bag in detail: a “black hard shell four-wheel Samsonite bag” is a lot more useful than the generic “black bag.”
Savvy travellers take a few smartphone photos of their luggage before checking it in at the airport: if the bag goes missing, showing these photos to the service desk makes it very fast to accurately describe the bag.
When the baggage service office hands you a letter with details of your report, it will contain a 10-character reference number...
... and it’s not widely known that this number can let you check on the whereabouts of your bag through the international WorldTracer website, a "global baggage tracing and matching system” used by airlines and airports.
Once your lost bag is found, WorldTracer will show its planned ‘route of reconciliation’ – which flight or flights it will be on – and a quick Google search of each flight number should give you an idea of how long it’ll take to reach you.
We also suggest checking your contact details in WorldTracer (just enter your name and baggage reference number on the site).
Your contact details should already have been entered by the baggage service staff, but this small step can pick up if an incorrect address or phone number that will only furthered delay being reunited with your lost luggage.
If you need to buy toiletries, basic clothing or other items to tide you over, make sure to keep your receipt in the event that cost can be covered by the airline or your travel insurance company. Just don’t go overboard on your initial shopping excursion without knowing what the limit is.
You’ll also want to make contact with the airline and your travel insurance company to check what you’re entitled to claim – passengers with delayed baggage can normally be reimbursed for the cost of buying necessary clothes, toiletries and supplies up to a reasonable limit. (Note tha t travel insurance for lost or delayed baggage is often only payable on amounts above what the airline provides.)
This is also why many seasoned travellers pack a change of clothes or at least the bare essentials in their carry-on bag, as a Plan B in the event their check luggage is delayed.