Dealing with Lost Airline Luggage

The satisfaction derived from purchasing cheap airplane tickets, finding discount hotel rooms, or securing cheap vacation packages, is quickly diminished if your airline loses your luggage.  Getting reimbursed for lost luggage can prove tricky.

The first thing a passenger needs to do once he discovers that his bag is lost is to go to the baggage claim office at the airport he flew in and report the missing bag.

The good news is that airlines are required to reimburse travelers for clothing and toiletries as a result of lost or delayed bags, according to DOT (Department of Transportation).  The bad news is that reimbursement details are left up to each individual airline.

Some carriers initially deny compensation to customer for purchases made within the first 24 hours followed a reported loss, and/or deny claims for inbound flights on the grounds that passengers have other clothes they can wear already at home. Both positions, according to DOT, are violations of its regulations.  DOT’s position is that fliers purchasing necessities after they file a missing bag claim should be reimbursed vs. having to wait to see if their bag is returned.

Almost 2.2 million pieces of luggage were reported mishandled by airlines in the U.S. last year.  Airlines maximum liability for lost luggage is $3,300 for domestic flights.  The maximum for international flights is only $640.  Airlines are not required to refund checked baggage fees for lost luggage.

Although airlines are required to reimburse for clothing, the amount is negotiable.   Airlines typically make filing a claim as difficult as possible, asking you to prove (via such things as receipts) the value of your lost clothing.  The DOT does not get involved in monitoring or recommending airline reimbursement rates.

Airline customer confusion and frustration in getting claims paid often ultimately benefits the airline.  Customer claims that are not followed up on by the customer often go unreimbursed.  Airlines retain the right to approve or reject any claim.

Persistence is sometimes needed to get a fair resolution for a claim of lost bags.  The DOT recommends that passengers who claims are denied should file a claim with the Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Office.

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