I start by saying, losing your luggage is not the end of the world, even it might feel like that in the very moment. Especially when you lose it on your way to your destination and then start to calculate how you didn't pack any clothes in your hand luggage and how you decided to shovel your medicine inside the suitcase to avoid extra weight in your hand luggage. Trust me, been there, done that.
Most of us have heard horror stories of lost luggage and never seeing them again, losing all your favourite clothes and expensive camera extensions. Not fun. Well naturally the risks of this unfortunate event happening to you grows the more you travel, earlier this year I was 'chosen' to be the victim of the lost luggage hassle. It was a completely new situation for me and it got very complicated and ugly and even over 6 months after I'm still suffering from it. Here's what I learned from my experience.
When you find yourself standing alone next to the luggage belt and when it actually hits you that staring at the beginning of the luggage belt won't make your baggage magically appear, you need to stay calm and take a deep breath. 1,2,3. Okay, then you need to find the help desk of the last airline you used, usually located in the same baggage hall and go explain the situation to the staff. They'll most likely ask for your boarding card which has the receipt of your baggage stuck in it, in order to track the baggage.
A Property Irregularity Form, aka PIR is the form you fill when your luggage is late or lost. It is necessary to fill this form immediately after you have noticed your luggage has gone lost. It includes your address, telephone number and a list of all the items inside your baggage. Remember to ask for a copy and keep the receipt you'll get safe as it can be crucial for getting your luggage back later on.
It is very important not to leave the airport without filling the PIR.
Before closing your baggage and leaving to the airport, snap a picture of all your belongings so in case your luggage gets lost, you'll have a picture which shows what was inside, as you are asked to describe all the items in the PIR form with detailed information.
PIR itself is not a claim. Therefore make sure to fill the claim as soon as you can. Most airlines have online claim forms that can be filled on their web pages. However, there are strict rules when the claim should be sent, so make sure to do it on time. Make sure to snap a few photos of the filled form, just in case!
If you happen to lose your luggage on your inbound flight, make sure to request for cash or compensation in order to purchase necessary items such as hygiene products. However don't be too demanding with this one as airlines won't agree on unnecessarily huge amounts.
It's the airline's duty to deliver your luggage to you into your home address if you lose your baggage on your way home. It should be free of charge.
That's the main rule. Before that, the luggage is under the label 'delayed'. In this case, you have a right to a compensation and you'll have to fill another form. There are international compensation limits and the maximum compensation depends on the current value of the international currencies, however, the general rule is approximately 16€ (18$) per kilo.
Someone I know had his work laptop stolen from his checked bag, most likely by the staff of the airport. Especially when travelling to developing countries, the airport staff struggles to survive with the salary they get and therefore might ''have no choice'' but steal items from the passengers' bags. Always, always, always keep your most valuable items on your hand luggage or simply leave them at home if possible.
Does it cover the expenses of having to buy essential items? What if something gets stolen? - Airlines hardly ever pay for the stolen items as it is very hard for you to proof that you had such an item inside your luggage, therefore be sure to have this feature in your travel insurance contract.
It is also a good idea to stick some colourful stickers into your suitcase so it is recognisable and easy to describe.
Here are my top tips to do and keep in mind while flying with checked baggage! Luckily most of the lost and delayed baggage are found and returned safely to their owners. Only sometimes things don't go as planned, like in my case.
I was misleadingly informed to go catch my connection flight without filling the PIR. When I arrived at my final destination it hit me hard that there was no one to help me without the PIR. Therefore I had to call back and forth from Morocco to Spain for 2,5 weeks, ending up spending more than 500€ of roaming data in the phone customer service.
I had to fax, call, fax, call nearly everyday of my vacation and finally before two days of leaving back home, I had my baggage waiting for me at the nearest airport (which wasn't near) as the airline refused to deliver it to the address I was staying at. It's been more than 6 months since that happened and I still haven't gotten my money back. If you ever face any difficulties when it comes to compensations from airlines, make sure to contact the legal authorities. If you are resident in a country part of the European Union, you are entitled to receiving legal support from the European Consumer Centre.
The most important rule to keep in mind is to save all the evidence you can possibly hold and save the original documents in good save.