ARGH! What to do when your luggage goes missing 😱

It’s every traveller’s worst nightmare… lost luggage! 😱 You might know the feeling all too well or have yet to experience the anxious wait at the luggage carousel with no bag in sight.

But, guess what? Lost luggage is becoming less and less common each year. Phew!

In fact, airline information technology company SITA found that baggage mishandling incidents have dropped 70% since 2007. Woohoo!

These days, fewer than seven in 1000 bags go AWOL. That means there’s only a 0.07% chance of your bag going missing – and even then, by the time you realise it’s often already on its way to you.

With that in mind, if you’re one of the unlucky ones, here’s what to do.

1. Take a deep breath

We get it. It’s scary to think that your stuff has gone missing. But in the vast majority cases, you and your bag will be reunited – and usually pretty quickly.

If it turns out your luggage is in the same airport terminal, it could be with you in a matter of hours. If it simply missed a connection, it could be with you the next day (or whenever the next flight is).

If your bag has gone on another flight, you might have to wait anywhere from 48 hours to five days for it to be found and sent to the correct destination. Which is why it’s always a good idea to pack your most important or valuable items (like prescription meds or your fave pair of earrings) in your carry-on bag.

2. Report your bag missing ASAP

As soon as you realise your bag is missing, go straight to your airline’s info desk and ask for help. Do not pass go, do not buy a $200 replacement suitcase.

Your airline will help lodge a Property Irregularity Report, or PIR. It’s best to do this straight away, before you leave the airport, as trying to claim a missing bag later, without a PIR, can be a major battle (which could mean saying goodbye to your bag forever). If you’ve been on multiple flights with multiple airlines, you’ll need to lodge the PIR with the airline from the final leg of your journey.

Legally, you have up to 21 days to lodge your PIR. But it’s best to get the wheels moving ASAP – the sooner you claim, the sooner you’ll get your bag!

If your bag definitely isn’t at the airport and you have to leave without it, you may need to buy some essentials. Many airlines offer care packs and vouchers to help cover the cost – ask yours if they can help.

3. Get ready to wait

As we’ve already said, most missing bags are quickly located and returned. But if you’re really, really unlucky and your luggage is truly lost, you’ll need to wait three weeks (21 days) for the status of your baggage to change from ‘delayed’ to ‘lost’.

In this unlucky (and rare!) situation, you can then claim for compensation. There are a couple of ways you can do this, starting with…

4. Claim compensation from your airline

Yep, your airline will compensate you if your bag is well and truly gone – although perhaps not as much as you’d hope (which is why you should always get travel insurance). For Australian domestic flights, compensation payouts are capped at $160 AUD for cabin baggage and $1600 AUD for checked luggage.

For international flights (both into and out of Australia), the cap is $1735 AUD, which covers both checked and carry-on bags. Airlines have two years to pay these claims, although they usually do it much sooner.

If you lose your bags overseas on a flight that didn’t leave from or arrive in Australia, you have 21 days to write to your airline to lodge a claim. Compensation payments for these claims are capped to a bit over $2000 AUD.

5. Lodge a travel insurance claim

$1600 AUD might sound like a lot, but the cost of a new suitcase, a few good outfits and an electronic device or two all adds up. Luckily your travel insurance should cover the gap between your airline’s compensation and the actual value of your luggage. But a heads-up for future trips: different insurers and policies have different limits. Shop around to make sure you pick the best one for your needs.

Another big plus of travel insurance is that it’ll usually cover you for any urgent essentials you need to buy while your bag is missing (whether it’s returned to you later or not). Keep a record of and receipts for anything you need to buy. One easy way to do it is to take photos on your phone.

Losing your bag can be a pain, but the odds are you’ll soon be reunited. Don’t let what is probably a temporary inconvenience spoil your trip. Get out there and have some fun!

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