How to Get Your Money Back for Lost and Damaged Luggage
After a very long and very depressing recent flight from Paris back to the U.S. (who ever wants to leave Paris?), I waited for my luggage in a haze at the bag drop-off in San Antonio, Texas. The first few minutes were filled with the typical baggage pick-up thoughts: I should’ve had one more glass of wine on that flight. Who cares if the flight attendant would’ve judged me? I am really really ready to be in my bed.
But after the next ten minutes, panic began to set in. Okay, where is it? I’m freaking out. I’M FREAKING OUT. A loud buzzer blared and the red light at the top of the baggage carousel flashed, signaling the end of the drop-off, and the beginning of an arduous hunt to get my suitcase back. Little did I know that, once I finally did get it, it would come back broken and damaged.
Acceptance is the first step (but it’s not as bad as you think).
If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have already dealt with this before, or can expect to. This was the second time that an airline had lost my luggage—it’s bound to happen when you’re packing and unpacking multiple times a year.
The good news is, you can almost be sure that the airline will find your luggage and get it back to you in a few days (granted, a few days can be an eternity without clean underwear or hair products, but it's doable). Airline companies know that they could end up owing you thousands of dollars in precious cargo, and have people whose only job is to track down your suitcase.
Trust me, I was on the phone crying to an American Airlines baggage control agent who assured me of this fact, and I begrudgingly believed her. Shout out to Sandra.
The key to getting your suitcase back (and recording if it comes back damaged) is to save everything. You need to be ready—I’m talking Elle Woods preparing for her first case after Warner broke up with her ready.
Step One: Before you leave the airport, immediately go to lost baggage control and file a claim. Once you’re there, they will ask for your flight details and baggage numbers (this is a good time to mention that you should always keep your baggage information—it’s usually on the sticker they paste onto the back of your passport).
Unfortunately, even once you give them every shred of information you have, they’re still going to send you home and make you wait. Yes, you will feel defeated, but that’s okay. Patience, grasshopper.
Bust open the filing cabinet.
After three days, my suitcase finally made it to my front door. Only problem was, it was missing a wheel and had cracks running through it. Umm….WTF?
Step 2: Take pictures of everything and be sure to keep the delivery notice that came with the suitcase. By now, your detective folder should have: flight tickets, baggage numbers, the claim with the file reference number made at your arrival airport, the delivery notice, and pictures of the luggage.
Airlines do not want to pay you for their mistakes, so be hot on your pursuit for reparation. Typically you have up to 45 days.
Send it off with a prayer.
This is where you’re actually going to have to use those organizational skills you bragged about on your resume.
Step 3: Fill out a reimbursement form. Along with all the info mentioned above, it’s crucial to have this document filled out correctly, otherwise you run the risk of not getting a full reimbursement. You can find it on the airline website. Fill it out digitally or print and send it off by mail or fax with all your other docs.
If you had any missing or damaged items, be sure to list those as well. You can even file for living costs for the days without your toiletries (yes, seriously). And, if you’re a total packrat and just so happen to have saved your suitcase’s receipt from when you bought it, you can apply to have its full cost compensated.
If not, don’t expect the airline to reimburse you more than $150. It’s enough to get you a new suitcase (and a drink for the emotional distress).