6 Ways to Keep Airlines from Losing Your Bags – and 4 Tips if it Happens Anyway

Photo (cc) by ToastyKen

When it comes to their passengers, airlines have an exceptional safety record. When it comes to handling checked bags, their record is lousy. Although it is not an issue of safety, lost and damaged luggage is one of the more terrifying possibilities we face when traveling. Although the Unclaimed Baggage Center claims that “Only about ½ of 1 percent of checked bags fail to show up at the baggage carousel,” it certainly feels like it happens more often than that. Nevertheless, keep in mind that there are several steps you can take to manage these risks…

Before you fly

  1. Buy inexpensive luggage. Luggage is designed to protect its contents, not survive conveyer belts and baggage handlers. If you’re very lucky, your bags will only get scuffed, scraped, and soiled. Many other folks will eventually find their bags damaged beyond repair or lost. So why invest in a pricey set from a name brand?
  2. Never check valuables. It can’t be repeated often enough: Carry on all money, medications, glasses, keys, jewelry, and electronics. If you’re not sure what’s considered valuable, simply read the airline’s luggage policy to learn what it will not reimburse you for in the event your bags are lost. Take everything else with you.
  3. If you must check it, insure it. Some items are considered valuable but the airlines won’t let you carry them on – like expensive sporting equipment, bulky electronics, or large musical instruments. Thankfully, you can purchase extra insurance for checked bags at a reasonable price. For example, American Airlines charges $2 for each $100 purchased, with a maximum of $5,000.
  4. Carry on essentials for your destination. Since you’d rather spend the first few days enjoying your vacation rather than shopping for replacements, ask yourself what you’d need on your trip if your bag were delayed for a few days. Also consider what would be the most time-consuming and expensive items to replace. For example, pack your bathing suit in your carry-on when you’re vacationing at the beach, and your hat, gloves, and goggles when you’re skiing.
  5. Go crazy with name tags. I normally put at least two luggage tags on each bag and include something with my name on it on the inside. To do otherwise raises the terrifying possibility that your lost bag will eventually be sold off at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama.
  6. Keep receipts. When you buy clothing or other travel items, save the receipts. You never know when your bag will be lost and you might be asked to document the cost of your property in order to be properly reimbursed.

After your flight

  1. Never leave the airport without filing a claim. Remember Dave Carroll, the guy who wrote a song about how “United Breaks Guitars“? His outrage was sparked not just because his guitar was damaged, but due to his claim being denied. In that instance, the airline maintained that he filed his official claim form too late – more than 24 hours after arriving. Actually, you should never wait close to that long. Always inspect your bag and make your claim with the airline before leaving the airport.
  2. Document your claim. If your bag is damaged, take plenty of pictures of it. If your bag is lost, that will be the time to find your envelope of receipts. Finally, always ask for a copy of the airline’s lost baggage report. It will contain a tracking number and contact information to follow your claim.
  3. Follow up. Your airline already lost or damaged your bag, so what makes you think that your claim will be handled any better? Stay on their case regularly to ensure that you are given a new bag, a settlement check, or both.
  4. Request a refund of baggage fees. Airlines are now required to refund baggage fees for lost luggage that’s never found, but this regulation doesn’t compel them to do so in the case of damage or delay. Nevertheless, you should still insist on reimbursement in these instances. I’ve received reimbursement for baggage fees when a bag was delayed for an extended period. If denied by your airline, you may also request a chargeback from your credit card company for services not provided.

Follow these tips to make sure that the airline’s bad service doesn’t cost you money or ruin your vacation.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

These 5 Laptops Have the Best Battery Life
These 5 Laptops Have the Best Battery Life

Need a laptop that runs as long as you do? Check out these models.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things
It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things

Sometimes, the difference in quality makes it worthwhile to open your wallet a little wider.

6 Ways to Guarantee Yourself a Steady Retirement Income
6 Ways to Guarantee Yourself a Steady Retirement Income

Saving is just one part of the retirement equation. Do this now to guarantee income in your golden years.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.