In July I was travelling from Barcelona to Luxembourg when security strikes at Barcelona airport meant we were unable to get through security in time to board our flight.
However our checked bags did make the flight and took off without us and were subsequently lost by the airline for four days. This resulted in us having to find an alternative route to Luxembourg with only the clothes on our back and the items in our hand luggage.
Just over a month later my luggage again failed to turn up on a luggage carousel, this time in Auckland. Thankfully this time it was located within a few hours in Frankfurt, having missed my connection to Hong Kong 30 hours earlier. I got it back three days later.
Here are some of the things I learnt when an airline lost my luggage which will improve your situation if it ever happens to you.
Before you fly
Do your research
If you’re travelling with an airline for the first time it pays to look at their policies and social media accounts to see whether they’re reputable when it comes to delivering checked luggage. Vueling seems to lose passenger’s luggage with concerning regularity.
In hindsight flying with a major, reputable airline would have saved a lot of hassle and stress. Instead we dealt with paying for extras, out of the way airports, flight delays, lost luggage and the airline’s lack of care and responsibility for the situation.
That said, any airline could potentially lose your checked luggage and travelling with only hand luggage when possible is cheaper and eliminates the risk of it going missing.
Take out Travel Insurance
All seasoned travellers know that Travel Insurance is essential when travelling, but how many actually read up about what is covered and not? You don’t want to be in the situation when you think the airline or your insurance will have you covered when actually they don’t.
Airline policies are pretty strict when it comes to their liability if your luggage is lost. This particular airline noted on their website that while they would possibly provide minimal reimbursement for the purchase of essential items, going to your insurer was likely the better option.
Know what you need to ask for and what proof you need. After the airline lost my luggage they took three weeks to provide a report I could give my insurer Cover-More to prove we were without our bags for four days. In the meantime I’d read up on my policy so I knew my entitlements and kept all the receipts for reimbursement later.
Thankfully making my claim was really easy, I just logged into Cover-More’s website, filled out what happened and uploaded the proof from the airline as well as my receipts from the essentials I had needed to purchase. The money was credited to my bank account within 24 hours of my claim being approved.
1 in 9 Cover-More Insurance polices results in a claim so the odds are over 10% that an unexpected event like this will occur and you’d be left out of pocket without travel insurance. It pays to take it out even if you’re just going on a short trip.
Keep a photo of your checked luggage in your phone
Describing my suitcase to the staff at the Barcelona airline counter was proving challenging despite the helpful graphic of luggage colours, shapes and sizes I was provided to point to.
Then I remembered I had a photo of it, complete with branding which I could just show him. A picture works in any language.
Have the following items in you hand luggage
Regardless of your flight time and distance you won’t regret having the following on hand if your checked luggage goes missing:
- A change of underwear
- Small toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant and facial cleansing wipes
- Any medication
- Any valuable items such as jewellery
- Any essential travel documents
- Chargers for all the technology items you’re carrying (phone, laptop, tablet etc)
- A battery pack to charge your phone on the go or a list of important phone numbers in case it dies
If your luggage doesn’t turn up:
- Visit the baggage desk for your airline and report your luggage missing. You should be given a reference number to enter in an online portal for updates.
- Double check that the information you provide is entered correctly – both the email address and contact phone number we wrote down in Barcelona were inputted incorrectly. We emailed to have this corrected but it never was. If it is correct you should receive messages keeping you updated.
- Think carefully about where you want your luggage sent once it’s located. We knew we’d have to take trains from Barcelona to Luxembourg via France so our first instinct was to have it sent to France. However we realised it was better to have it sent to our hotel in Luxembourg as we would head there anyway.
- Follow the airline up via social media – they can ignore your emails and fail to provide a customer service line for your location but they have to respond on social media for brand image. There’s nothing like a bit of heckling via public forums to get the airline to respond.
When travelling it’s not a matter of “if your bags go missing” but a reality “when your bags go missing”. Between my two events I learnt a lot and was certainly in a much better position the second time it happened and not just because I was heading home. Experiences between airlines will differ however knowing what to ask for, travelling with some essentials close at hand and being well covered by insurance will certainly make the experience a lot less stressful.
Has your luggage ever been lost while travelling? What happened? And what did you learn?
Oh man, that’s gotta suck. I’m so fortunate that I’ve never had my luggage lost by an airline. I usually only bring a carry-on though, so that really helps keep that worry out of my mind. It’s gotta be so helpful to have that travel insurance in these situations though!
Yes travel insurance is the best when things go wrong! You definitely want the right provider though – it was super easy to claim through Cover-More as I could do it all in an online portal while my friend (who was insured in the UK) had to print off and fill in forms as well as send in original receipts which is really hard when you’re travelling.
I’ve never lost my luggage but this has made a great reference of what I need in the instance it does happen! Taking a photo and having all those items must have really helped at the time!
You’ve very lucky Char! And thanks so much – they’re tricks I’m spreading the word as far and wide as possible about!
Taking a photo of your luggage – brilliant! This is a terrific list and I will refer to it when packing for future trips. Thanks!
Yes I’d actually taken the photo for an entirely different purpose but it turned out to be a lifesaver! Thanks Jamie 🙂
It has never happened to me (yet), but I mostly travel within Europe and I’m too cheap to pay for checked luggage 😀 So even when I have a checked luggage I always have my toiletries and change of underwear in my hand luggage – you never know when you may need fresh underwear or some deodorant especially when travelling! The tip that I found most useful in your post is the picture of the suitcase. Very smart and I can see how you’ve learned this from experience. It makes it so much easier to describe exactly what your suitcase looks like! I will definitely keep this in mind for the future!
Haha yes being to cheap to pay for checked luggage does have it’s advantages! Sounds like you already know what you’re doing with your hand luggage contents, for a long time I truly believed the worst would never happen to me.
I wish I stumbled upon this long ago when I lost my luggage for like five days. It was the worst 🙁
Oh my gosh five days! What airline , where and how?? That would be the worst!