What To Do When Your Luggage Is Hopelessly Totally Completely Lost

Here at Consumerist we get a lot of complaints that go something like this:

“XYZ Airlines lost my f**cking luggage. F*ck. Sh*t. They won’t call me back or listen to me. I hate them. I miss my shoes, my camera, my ren. fair costume, my dog, my saxophone, my collection of rare Hummels, my great aunt suzy’s diamonds, my lizard… (No, seriously. The lizard and the ren. fair costume are real complaints. Airlines will lose, steal or mistreat anything.)

I hate XYZ airlines. What can I do to make them find my luggage?”

Let’s assume that if you’re writing to us your luggage has been missing for a long time. Ok. It’s gone. We’re sorry. Next time don’t check bags through Philadelphia. Here’s what to do when you’ve given up all hope:

  • Accept the fact that you’re going to need to fill out another claim form with the airline. You probably already did this when your bag failed to greet you at your destination. Sorry. It’s time to fill out a second form. If you took more than one airline, the last airline you traveled on should be responsible for your baggage. Get a claim form from them.

  • Make an itemized list of all your lost stuff. The airline is going to compensate you for the depreciated value of your stuff rather than its replacement value. Use this tidbit of information however you see fit, but do understand that airlines will reject a claim that they suspect is fraudulent.

  • Expect to negotiate. The airline doesn’t want to pay you. They may ask for receipts or other proof of the value of your crap.

  • Here’s the fun part. There are limits to how much compensation you are entitled to. In the US, the limit is $3,000. For international flights there’s something called the Montreal Convention that establishes the limit. This limit is currently 1,000 SDR. The value of SDR (Special Drawing Rights) changes daily. You can check out its current value by visiting the International Monetary Fund’s website.

  • Once you’ve got all of that settled, you’ll want to register your complaint with the Department of Transportation. Complaints sent to the DOT end up in that Air Travel Consumer Report that media people just love to use to embarrass the airlines.

  • After all is said and done, if you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. This is where most of the lost baggage eventually ends up. Perhaps you can buy your stuff back.

    (Photo:saramarie)

    File A Complaint With The DOT