What To Do When An Airline Loses Your Luggage

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

Has an airline ever lost your bag?
Do you have any tips to add?

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  • Reply
    Marie-Eve (A Montrealer Abroad)
    March 7, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I had the same thing happen to be when I flew back to Montreal for the holidays, heading straight to a super fancy work party downtown. And then Air Canada lost my bag. I had to go to the party in jeans, sneakers and sweatshirt! The airline found my bag 5 days later and delivered it to my place, but you know, too little too late. And they only reimbursed 100$ in expenses. Who can purchase an entire outfit + toiletries in 2014 for just 100$?

    I never took the plane again without having the essentials in my carry-on. Lesson learned!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    You seem to have had a bit of bad luck Nicole but I suppose with the amount of times you have travelled, it is probably a very low percentage of times that your bag was delayed. I have had a near miss once. After all the bags had come out at Heathrow and just about everyone from my flight was gone my bag still wasn’t there. Went to the Cathay counter and they said that my bag had arrived and that it should have been there. After much mucking about from the staff it turned out that it had somehow made its way to the the baggage carousel next to my flights. I was so thankful at that moment and since then have been packing a few essentials in my carry-on for just in case.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

    I was unlucky enough to lose my bag on my first ever solo overseas trip! I few into Heathrow and then caught a flight to Shannon airport in Ireland on a different airline. My student travel agent booked the connection too tight so my bag got left in London and was nowhere to be found. My advice is if you think the airline representative at the airport didn’t take you seriously (and mine didn’t, chastising me for the address I gave him being “too vague” when it was correct), find some internet and call EVERYONE. I had NO luck with Aer Lingus who wouldn’t pick up the phone, so I decided to call the airline I flew to London, Qatar Airways. I got through to baggage guy at Heathrow who personally found my bag sitting forgotten at the Aer Lingus office, and made them put it on the next flight to Shannon. Five hours later I had my bag delivered rather sheepishly to my hostel. So yeah, contact the airline who lost the bag, but also try the airline who last had your bag, or a representative from either at the airport you suspect still has your bag. You just need one person to find it and get it where it needs to go.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    My bag has been missing since June 24, 2014 on a flight from Athens to London to Ireland. My whole holiday in Ireland was left with the essentials I bought, anticipating that my bag would arrive as my daughter’s had two days later. I have since returned to Canada and have been calling British Airways and get little reassurance or help. Other than the “the bag is being traced” Does any one have any ideas or contact numbers I may try. Would really like that suitcase. It has all my souvenirs from first part of our trip. I have spent hours on the phone!!! It has been missing two weeks tomorrow.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    December 21, 2015 at 6:26 am

    My bag has been lost by British Airways. This is the second time they have lost my luggage and I am furious with myself for remaining a loyal customer. I really should have known better than to travel with this airline after the first incident. My bag has been lost for 4 days now and no-one is providing me an update or able to give me any information on where by bag has ended up. It is filled with Christmas presents that I saved meticulously to purchase. I am now in Manchester, UK, for Christmas with no clothes and very little expendable income to purchase anything warmer to tied me over. Worst of all the bag contained medication that I cannot easily replace. British airways continue to do nothing just like with the other poor people on this forum. A terrible airline.

    • Reply
      January 1, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Hi Abbie,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I am so sorry to hear how British Airways have treated you, especially around such a festive and happy time of year.
      They really do need to solve how poorly they handle lost baggage. While I received my bag bag my problems are still not resolved with them.

      Do remember to use your allocated allowance and keep the receipts to claim your purchases (toiletries, clothes, etc).

      I do hope they manage to locate your baggage, presents and medication soon. Good luck!

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