Travel & Holidays > Guides

What to do when an airline loses your bags

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Apr 10, 2017

The good news is that statistically it’s unlikely an airline will lose your bags.

The number of bags airlines lose is falling, mostly due to better technology.

The bad news is that 24 million bags around the world were lost by airlines last year, according to SITA, the information technology company.

That amounts to just over seven bags per thousand passengers.

85 per cent of these turn up and are reunited with passengers within 48 hours, it’s claimed.

But what do you do and what are your rights if the worst happens and you’re left staring at that empty baggage carousel?


If your luggage is delayed

If your baggage goes missing on your homeward flight, the airline has three weeks to get it to you before it’s declared lost.

If it’s delayed on your outward flight, it’s usually far more of a holiday spoiler.

The bad news is that there are no fixed rules on how the airline should come to your aid.

But they do have to compensate you for ‘essential items’ that you’re missing because of your delayed bags. What counts as ‘essential’ will vary a fair amount, though. It will rarely if ever amount to buying full sets of clothes. You’ll need to talk to the airline to find out what they will offer.

And any money paid out will often have to be claimed later, so keeping a record and all receipts is vital. Some airlines may offer a daily amount of cash in compensation.

If you have travelled on more than one airline to reach your destination, it is normally the airline that covered the last leg that will be responsible for handling your claim. A claim should be filed with an airline within 21 days of your bag being reunited with you.

Travel insurance may offer a more better alternative to claiming from the airline.

But it’s worth checking before you take out a travel insurance policy that it covers you at all for baggage lost while in the care of an airline. Some don’t; or they include an excess that makes a claim pointless.

Of course, while it’s often not possible to carry all you need as carry-on luggage, the best advice is always to carry anything valuable this way, AND to take some bare essentials that will get you through a couple of days if your bags do end up being delayed.


If your luggage is lost

The first thing to do if your baggage does not show up is contact the desk for the airline that you have flown with, before you leave the baggage hall.

All major airlines will be able to provide you with a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) – a form that records the details of your journeys and baggage.

If your bag doesn’t turn up within 21 days then it’s classed as ‘lost’.

If you make a claim from the airline, then you’ll need to provide a list of all that is missing, along with any supporting evidence to show worth, like receipts.

It's a good idea, before you fly, to take a phone photo of the contents and the exterior of your baggage as evidence for any claim – and for identification in case the bag ever turns up. If your bag is lost you should send the PIR form and any photo evidence to the airline.

But, as mentioned above, it’s never a great idea to include anything of real value in bags that you check in.


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