Delayed baggage is a right royal pain in the “you-know-where”.
If you’ve ever had to deal with delayed baggage after a long haul flight, you know just how true this is.
Absolutely no traveller wants to be the last person standing at the luggage carousel waiting for a suitcase that just does not appear. If you’re dealing with delayed baggage, you can hope against hope, vent and fume or just get on with making the best of the situation.
Delayed baggage is better than lost luggage. The mere fact that it is delayed means you will be deprived of its possession for a (hopefully) short period of time. Compared to total and permanent loss, delayed baggage is far better.
If you do find yourself without your luggage, there are a few important things you need to do.
1. Before leaving the airport, visit the Baggage Claim counter
Do this to advise staff that your luggage has not arrived at the destination. Usually you will find the Baggage Claim counter near the luggage carousels. If for any reason the counter is unattended, call the airline to report the situation.
Most airlines use a computerised bag tracking system called WorldTracer which is in use at 2,800 airports around the world. Once you advise the airline that your luggage hasn’t arrived, they will search the system to see if they can identify where it is. Sometimes, your luggage simply doesn’t make the flight and it is still at the originating airport. Other times, it hasn’t been loaded on to your connecting flight. In both cases, the airline will usually put it on the next flight and arrange to deliver it to your hotel / home. As it was lost in their custody, it is the airline’s responsibility to arrange delivery – rather than you having to retrieve it from the airport after it finally arrives.
When reporting the situation to the airline, make sure they have an address to which you want your luggage delivered and also your contact phone number / email address.
Also, make sure you get a Property Irregularity Report. Airlines and insurance companies refer to this as an anacronym – PIR. This notes relevant details of the loss including your name, number of bags missing and flight number etc. It also has a reference number which is a unique code usually containing 10 letters and numbers. You can use this reference number to check the status of your baggage online or via phone.
2. Ask for an allowance / amenities kit
Most delayed luggage is reunited with its owner within 48/72 hours. As reassuring as this is, you still don’t have clean clothes, toiletries and other essential items. This usually means you will need to go shopping to tide you over until your luggage is delivered.
Under the Montreal Convention, airlines are legally obliged to offer passengers compensation for delay and/or loss of luggage whilst in their custody. We’ve covered Lost Luggage compensation in another article but if your luggage is delayed, the airline can provide an allowance for reasonable expenses you incur due to the delay. This should allow you to go and buy some emergency clothing, toiletries and other essential items.
Also, try your luck and ask for an amenities (or overnight) kit. If one is available, it will provide you with emergency items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, comb and moisturiser etc.
3. Keep receipts for any expenses incurred
If the airline doesn’t provide an allowance or it is on the small side and you incur further expenses, make sure you retain receipts for items that you purchase. You will need these when it comes time to lodge a claim.
4. File a claim
If the airline didn’t stump up with a cash allowance or it was insufficient, file a claim for reimbursement of costs incurred due to them having lost your luggage. Airlines are obliged to compensate you for “reasonable” expenses due to the loss/delay. Some airlines consider this amounts to a change of clothing and toiletries only whereas other airlines take a more benevolent approach. It’s best to err on the side of caution though – the delayed arrival of your baggage isn’t a green light to go on a spending spree at the airline’s expense. If you need it, buy it. Just be mindful that your claim for reimbursement will be assessed on what was “reasonable”.
To file a claim you will need the receipts to evidence the expenditure, the PIR and baggage receipt (which is usually affixed to your boarding pass at the check-in counter). It may be the airline has a standard claim form or online claim portal. The airline will be able to advise you regarding its process. Don’t dilly dally when it comes to lodging a claim – some airlines have strict rules around how much time you’ve got to file a claim – it may be as little as 21 days.
5. Travel Insurance?
It’s more than possible the airline will try and deflect your request for compensation by advising you to claim against your travel insurance policy.
Most mid-range and comprehensive travel insurance policies will include a benefit for the purchase of immediate necessities if your luggage is delayed in transit. However, there may be a timeframe here to consider where the policy wont respond if the delay is less than (say) 24 hours. At the end of the day, the airline has lost your luggage and they do have a legal liability to compensate you for the additional cost you incur due to this circumstance. They cannot abrogate their responsibility to compensate you. Recommending you contact your travel insurer is largely a bluff.
Sure, you can claim against your travel insurance policy. Bear in mind though that you cannot claim twice by claiming compensation for the expenses incurred against the airline and the travel insurance company. If the airline wont compensate you or provides insufficient compensation, you can claim the shortfall from your travel insurer (subject to any applicable policy limits).
Delayed baggage is a headache for any traveller. Thankfully most cases are resolved quickly with the passenger and their suitcase being reunited within a day or two. If it does happen to you, understanding what your obligations and rights are will take the stress down a notch or two. You’ll also have some new clothing to remind you of the experience!