It’s something you don’t want to think about lest it happens the next time you step onboard but it may happen once or twice in your life and it’s better to be prepared, right? I’m talking about when an airline loses your Luggage.
I’ve had some near misses. Like the time at Adelaide Airport when someone picked up my bag, mistaking if for their very similar designed bag. Luckily, the couple had just left the airport grounds and I was reunited with my bag later that evening. Then, there was the time Cathay Pacific forgot to load my bag onto my flight to Hong Kong for a Christmas holiday. Thankfully I was reunited with my bag the next morning with many apologies by the ground crew. Then there was British Airways.
Despite checking into my flight with BA 5-hours early and flying business class somehow the airline “misplaced” my bag. Not a big deal usually but I was headed to Moscow. Russia. In January. I’m from Australia, the place where we complain about the cold when the weather is below 20°C, so heading to Russia in January was going to be a shock to the system no matter how many layers I packed. Except I arrived but my bag didn’t; and all I was wearing was jeans, a tshirt, cardigan and a pair of boots. In my backpack was a rain jacket and a pair of thongs; and that’s how I spent one week – wearing just the clothes on my back.
Immediately discovering my bag had been lost or misplaced the BA lost & found team helped me complete the required Lost Baggage forms and explained the process on the next steps all while assuring me my bag would be back within my possession as soon as possible. “Usually 24-hours but guaranteed within 48-hours, even in Russia.”
Having missed my connecting flight from Gatwick because of the baggage problem I had a chance to head to the nearest shopping centre to do a spot of ’emergency essentials’ shopping at Westfield Shepherds Bush – the closest major shopping centre to Heathrow Airport. Good-bye hard earned money; hello new undies, socks, toiletries and some jumpers.
I had the choice to stay in London – in fact, my friends and family suggested I cancel my Russian travel plans, but I’d spent so long planning I remained stubborn and bought a new flight for the next morning, choosing to stay at Gatwick’s Yotel hotel. Using the Internet I was able to find my travel insurance policy to see exactly what was covered and what additional documentation they required.
If you lose your bag en route to Russia be warned that the clothing sizes are a LOT smaller, the shoe heel height a LOT higher and the price of almost everything a LOT higher than in most cities. That being said, in St Petersburg I did manage to find a few bargains due to the holiday sale period still running (Russian Orthodox Christmas is in early January). There’s also one other niggly thing that BA, and many other airlines, will neglect to tell you.
If your bag enters Russia unaccompanied you will need to pay a 4€ per kilogram fee to pick it up. My bag weighed 26kg. A bus ride to the airport, a lot of fighting with security, bursting into tears in the middle of a Russian airport (Hey! Don’t judge me – I smelt bad after wearing one set of clothes for a week and could see my bag full of clean clothes it just got to be too much), a long expensive phone call, and €104 later I had my bag… and was furious with BA who had adamantly assured me that they were going to deliver my bag to my hotel and failed to mention any fees.
7 tips for when an airline loses your bag
- Make sure you keep a line of communication open with your airline. I found BA’s system of reporting updates to be outdated and clunky; I also felt that, as a business class and a OneWorld status holder, they didn’t treat me particularly well so I am concerned about what the service would have been like if I was flying Economy or Premium Economy.
- Make sure your travel insurance policy is valid BEFORE you travel. Sounds simple but so many of my friends forget to renew. I had a reminder in my calendar to renew my travel policy two-weeks before the airline lost my baggage. If I had forgotten to renew the policy, or delayed renewing, I would be left out of pocket in a big way. Coupled with the delayed baggage, due to the polar vortex in the US my flight landed in London two-hours later than anticipated and that coupled with reporting my lost baggage meant I missed my connecting flight to Moscow. By having travel insurance some of this cost will be reclaimed.
- Providers such as InsureandGo recommend that you always compare travel insurance options before you buy, assess the level of cover offered by the policy you have selected and most importantly check the PDS for any exclusions. The cheapest level of cover may not always cover any lost baggage claims and other providers place responsibility on the airline, so you potentially could not be covered at all even if you do have a policy.
- Get all the facts straight. BA assured me that my baggage would be delivered to my hotel and failed to mention any extra airport taxes associated. By doing my own independent research I might have found out that BA was incorrect and been prepared for the hit my wallet was going to take, and perhaps have my bag delivered to the next city I was visiting that didn’t have any additional fees.
- Keep all your receipts. You need these to claim back your expenses so get a plastic bag – the onboard liquid bags available in most airport security lines are a good choice – and keep everything together. It’s better than relying on your bank statement!
- Invest in a Lug Loc. I always thought it was a bit excessive paying for a luggage tracker but after my experience in Russia I totally understand why people like the extra protection that one of these devices offer. Simply place your device in the bag and, should you need to, trace your luggage anywhere in the world through your smartphone or computer. I highly recommend this device, especially for frequent travellers.
- Keep a change of clothes and your valuables in your carry on. This invaluable piece of advice has saved me in many sticky situations…. unfortunately I didn’t listen abide by the “change of clothes” rule for for this particular flight.
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Now it’s over to you: