Missing in Action

What to do when your bags take their own vacation.

It’s not fun being without your belongings, but dealing with the airline can be infuriating. If you find yourself empty handed at the carousel, here’s what you need to know to get you reunited with your belongings and back to enjoying your trip.

Missing LuggageStay put: I know it’s tempting to want to get to the hotel and deal with it later after a long flight. The best thing to do, however, is go straight to an airline agent and gets the paper trail going. Get a tracking number and the right contacts.

Ask and negotiate: Know where you stand when it comes to expenses. Will you be reimbursed if you need to buy clothing? If so, the full-price or only some of the cost? Will the airline pay for delivery of the bag? Can you get a refund for the checked bag fee? All good questions you should ask before getting a nasty surprise.

Check-in: Make sure you’re checking in with the airline to make sure they are on top of it. Have that tracking number from earlier handy.

Become a bookkeeper: If you need to buy clothes or rent gear, make sure you keep the receipts. Don’t go spending too much though; the airline might not pay the full value.

It’s gone!: It’s rare, but sometimes the bag just can’t be found. This is where you will find airlines have limits to their generosity. For instance, Air Canada has a limit of $1,500 CAD per passenger if you flew within Canada. The amount can go higher if you declare it in advance and additional charges are paid – like equipment.

Here are some handy tips to avoid any future headaches:

Missing in Action LuggageKeep the sticker! That little sticker the agent usually puts on the back of your ticket – keep it! Better yet, take a photo of it.

What are you packing? Catalogue the items in your bag and take a photo. If you’re feeling lazy, at least take the photo.

Keep clicking. While you have your phone out, also take a photo of the bag. This will help when trying to explain what it looks like. Saying it’s black won’t help.

Leave a clue. Put a copy of your flight itinerary in your bag. It might be the message in the bottle for your lost luggage.

Missing in Action LuggageTag it. Do you have a luggage tag? Is it up to date?

Near and dear. No valuables in your checked luggage. If you can’t afford to lose it, then it goes with you on the plane. If you need to check it, you might want to double check your insurance or talk to the airline about declaring it for an extra fee.