The airline lost my luggage. What do I do?

There is always a small possibility for the airline to lose your luggage when flying, but until this actually happens to you, you won’t really know what to do.

I was put in this situation a few months ago, on my way to Cuba. I found a cheap ticket to Havana from Milano – Italy, so I’ve book an extra flight from London, the night before. I had enough time to change airports and also to visit my friend Letizia, who lives in Milano. But surprise, I arrived in Italy yet my luggage was left behind, in London. There was no way for the airline (AlItalia) to deliver it until my next flight, in the morning, so I had to continue my journey to Cuba only with the promise that my backpack will arrive in a few days.

You can guess that my bag never arrived. I’ve spent two and a half weeks in Cuba without any of my belongings, thinking about the worse and trying to contact the airline instead of enjoying my time there.

On my return, while in Italy again, I went to the Lost and Found and asked about the whereabouts of my luggage. Long story short, after a month, I finally received it, back home. Since then I’ve been through a war with the airline for compensation, and after I finally received the money back for all my expenses, I thought about writing this guide on what to do when the airline looses your bag.

The inevitable has happened

So there you are, the only person still standing near the conveyor belt, looking how it goes round and round, waiting for your luggage. You hear a beep, the belt stops, and your luggage is nowhere to be found. What do you do?

The first step is to go immediately to the Lost and Found office and obtain the PIR report. If this is your inbound flight ask the Lost and Found for an emergency toiletries bag. I only found out that the airline will give you toiletries when it was too late. And of course, they did not offer it to me and because I didn’t ask, I didn’t get any. As a tip, always have your toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, a pair or underwear and a spare T-shirt in your cabin bag. You never know…

The next thing you have to do is to inform your hotel at your destination that your bag has been lost and that (hopefully) it will be delivered to you in the next couple of days. You will have a tracking code given by the Lost and Found office and you can track your missing suitcase here:

If you are lucky, you will be reunited with your bag in a few days. If you are unlucky, like me, you will receive your missing bag after a month. It’s important to know that after 21 days, according to the Montreal Convention, your luggage is considered lost, even if it gets found afterwards.

How to file a claim

It is very important to know that you have to start the procedures to receive compensation from the airline as soon as possible, as you have limited time to do this:

– for delayed or missing luggage you have a deadline of 21 days to contact the airline

– for lost luggage you have to wait until 21 days have passed and then make your claim as soon as possible

According to the Montreal Convention, the maximum compensation an airline can pay you is 1,131 euros. Of course, no airline will want to pay you that much amount of money, but in some cases they will have to. In my case, initially they offered me a compensation of 80 euros. In the end they paid 1,131!

What documents do I need to file a claim?

Here is a list with all the documents that you will need in order to file a claim for your lost luggage:

– your boarding card

– the luggage tags (which are usually stick on the back of the boarding card)

– the PIR report which you obtained from the Lost and Found office

– the receipts of all the things you had to buy because of the lost luggage (toiletries, clothes – depending on the delay of the suitcase)

– if your luggage is never found, you have to make a list with all the items inside and an approximate cost of each piece

My advice is that before the trip, make a list with all your belongings from the suitcase and also take a picture. You will never know when it’s going to be handy. I had a lot of toys in my suitcase to which I took a picture before I left, and that was how my missing backpack has been identified. The airline will ask for pictures in case the tag has broken down and they need to identify your suitcase by the items that are inside.

Where do you file the claim?

Most of the airlines will have a lost luggage claim form on their website. If they don’t, simply write a letter to their customer service department including the following information:

– the details of your flight: date, hour, flight number, departure and destination

– a description of what happened

– how much money you are asking for

– a description of the items in your luggage

– a list of everything you had to buy because your bag has been lost and their receipts

– copies of the above documents

What happen if I’m not happy with the airline’s reply?

If the airline refuses to compensate you or if you think the compensation does not cover your expenses, you can take your claim further.

My claim was handled by the CAA, the Civil Aviation Authority. Complain to them and ask them to take your complaint to the airline on your behalf. The procedure can take up to 10 weeks but it is free and if you can’t reason with the airline they are the best people to help you.

Another solution is to take the airline to the small claims court. The fee to do this depends on the amount of money you are claiming for, the maximum being £70. This is a time consuming option and it can become costly if you end up going to court. However, if you win, the airline will pay you back the court fees together with the compensation they owe you.

The third option is to make a claim to your insurance. I tried this but they were asking for the receipts of all the items I had in my luggage, which I didn’t have.

In the end, I wish this will never happen to you! But there is always a chance, so remember: always keep the receipts of everything you are buying while your luggage is missing, have an extra change of clothes in your hand bag and don’t you ever think that the airline won’t compensate you. Believe in the Montreal Convention! 🙂

57 thoughts on “The airline lost my luggage. What do I do?

  1. Rebecca says:

    Not so much to do with helping to recover lost luggage, but one trick my husband and I always do is if we are checking bags, we put a change of underwear and a clean t-shirt rolled up in our carry-on as a just in case. A hotel should be able to provide you with minimal toiletries and then you have some fresh clothing for the following day when you then can go out in search of buying replacement items and you can wash what you wore on the plane in the sink. If we go to a tropical destination, a bathing suit always goes in my carry on too.

  2. Nikki Jenner says:

    Wow, nice tips! I worried so much and I don’t trust airline companies due to some horror stories I’ve heard about them.

  3. Terri Beavers says:

    Oh my gosh, I hope this never happens to me but it’s good to know what to do if it does. From now on, I’ll keep a change of clothes and toiletries in my carry on just in case. I’m sorry you had to go through this, it would totally ruin my trip.

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