What To Do If Airlines Lose Or Damage Your Luggage
So you’ve managed to plan your trip, get everyone through the airport AND through your flights. You’ve finally arrived and are ready to begin your nice, relaxing vacation. Then you see your bag…or don’t (even worse). Here’s what to do when the airline loses/damages your luggage or stroller.
Having flown no fewer than 30 times with our family in the last couple years using just about every airline imaginable and almost as many different configurations of luggage and baby gear, we have a little bit of experience in this area.
For the most part things have gone really well in regards to getting our stuff where it needs to be in the condition we left it in. However, we have had a couple luggage disasters along the way and had to figure out what to do on the spot. Hopefully you don’t ever need to deal with lost or damaged luggage (or strollers) but here’s what to do just in case. Knowledge is power right?
1. Before your head to the airport, snap a picture of each bag, stroller and carseat you’ll be taking with you. That way you’ll have a picture to help you describe any damaged or missing luggage. Bonus points if you happen to add cute luggage tags, straps, stickers or any other things you can use to better differentiate your luggage.
For example it is easier to find if you say it’s a black, hard-sided Amazon Basics brand suitcase with travel stickers and a pink luggage tag than it would be if you said that it is just a black suitcase.
2. If you’ll be checking or gate checking a stroller or carseat, check out the airline’s website to see their packing guidelines. Some airlines won’t even consider reimbursing you for damages if your stroller isn’t packed “correctly” so I like to check and see how close I can realistically get to their version of “correct” just in case.
This is really just for damaged luggage. If you do notice damage, take pictures. Take pictures from every angle, far away and up close to show the damage. Preferably before leaving the airport so they can’t say you just dropped it out of your car or something.
Whether your luggage is lost or damaged you are going to need to keep your ticket and the luggage claim receipts they give you when they put the luggage destination stickers on your bag as you check in for your flight.
NOTE** If you are traveling as a family and have multiple bags, they may assign bags to go with your tickets randomly so just to be sure you keep the right ticket, keep them all until you get your bags back.
Make sure to report your loss or damages right away. Usually that means going to the baggage office in baggage claim area. If you’re flying internationally it is usually before customs. If you don’t make a report at the airport you may not be able to make one at all.
The people at the baggage office will usually help you figure out what to do next. Sometimes you just wait an hour or so until the next flight comes with your bag. Sometimes they will bring your your bag to your hotel the next day. Sometimes they will give you a travel voucher for your trouble (thanks Southwest!). Sometimes they will do nothing at all and you will end up with a mangled, unusable stroller (I’m looking you Air Serbia).
In the event that you don’t get your bag back in a timely fashion, don’t get your bag back at all or your stroller/carseat is out of commission and the airline is unable to help you it is really fantastic to know that you’ve got a backup plan.
We just started using travel insurance about 18 months ago and it really has been great in these sorts of situations. We use World Nomads because its relatively affordable, easy to make claims and quick to reimburse you. Turns out our travel insurance even ended up paying for the birth of our son (but thats a whole other story).
As frustrating as it may be to spend the extra time and effort to figure things out, it will generally turn out fine in the end so there is no use making a fuss over it. We have had a lot of great lessons for our kids in these kinds of situations on being flexible and adapting our plans to what life brings us. Take a few deep breathes and be determined to enjoy your trip anyway.