Even though the chance of your luggage being lost or delayed is less than one percent, it still happens. I’ve had my suitcase delayed once, two years ago on my 3-week trip to China. Fortunately, it happened on the way back. Ultimately, my suitcase was returned in three days, everything intact. I was told it was due to a delayed flight (We sat in an airplane four hours due to bad weather).
I couldn’t find a good guide on lost luggage. So I researched on average how long does it take to find lost luggage, how to get reimbursed and some other topics. The conclusion was a bit shocking. It turns out that you’ve basically won the lottery because the odds of you losing your suitcase completely are 1 to 2500!
A quick summary
How long does it take to find lost luggage?According to research, 85% of total lost luggage is found and returned within 36 hours, often even less. If your luggage is lost for 21 days, it’s officially considered lost and you can get a compensation of up to 3500$, depending on your destination. However, only 7% of lost luggage claims result in luggage being totally lost.
How long does it take to find lost luggage
You’ve lost most of your clothes, toiletries and possibly other valuables. This sucks, but there’s not much you can do, apart from filling the lost luggage claim ASAP.
According to a research made by the Association of European Airlines around 85% of lost luggage is found and delivered within two days. However, this number has been decreasing over the years. Now it’s closer to 36 hours. So most likely you’re about to receive your bag in a day or two.
Another research suggested that 47% of lost luggage is due to transfer mishandling. Technically, it’s not even lost, it’s actually delayed. Sometimes when you’re flying connected flights and the layover time is 90 minutes or less, you make it on time, but your luggage doesn’t. If you’re quick about filing your claim and the suitcase is found immediately, you could receive your case in just a few hours.
Unfortunately, there are many other more time-consuming reasons why your luggage could be lost. For instance, the labels could have come off, it may have been sent to a wrong country, maybe even stolen. In these situations, you could be looking at a few days.
Actually, only 7% of total lost luggage claims result in the luggage being completely lost and never to be found. If that’s the case, the suitcase is considered lost only after 14 or 21 days, depending on your airline carrier. For exact deadlines, you should contact the airline staff.
What are the chances of finding your lost luggage
According to a SITA research published in 2017, pretty high! Although this didn’t calm me very much when my Travelpro suitcase was delayed. I’ve used it really much and have grown pretty close to it. Fortunately, I did receive it back after a few days.
The chances that your luggage is lost or delayed are very slim. In 2016, on average only 5 passengers out of 1000 experienced problem with their luggage and filed lost luggage claims. That’s less than 1%!
But that’s not all. If you’re within the half percent, and your luggage is lost, you have a 93% chance of receiving your suitcase. So in total, this translates that only four out of ten thousand people lose their luggage completely. Even if you would be flying weekly your whole life, you would lose your suitcase completely only once every fifty years.
So don’t worry. Chances of losing your luggage completely are similar to being struck by lightning. (Not mathematically correct, but you get the point).
Even if you’re between the unlucky ones, after 21 days you will most likely get a reimbursement for your lost suitcase and its contents.
How to increase the chances of your suitcase being found?
To increase your chances of finding your case, here’s what you should do:
- If you fail to find your luggage on the conveyer belt upon arrival, immediately go to the lost luggage office. It should be somewhere in the baggage claim, just ask the nearby staff. Make sure to do this before leaving the baggage claim.
- When you’re at the desk, don’t be annoying and try to be understanding. The staff deal with this all the time and you being irritating will just make things worse.
- Fill out the lost baggage claim, carefully stating the lost baggage contents and all of its features.
- Be sure to describe your case as best as you can, as this dramatically increases the chances of them finding your luggage. Sometimes the tags could be torn off, so the only way to recognize your case is by its features and contents. Nowadays, their systems are pretty advanced. All found luggage is immediately placed in a database. Their software then sorts through the database and based on your description, locates your suitcase.
- Most likely you will be given instructions on how to check your luggage status online. Make sure to get the responsible departments number, so later you can contact someone if there isn’t any news.
The worst airlines that are known for losing luggage
Although the chances of you losing luggage are pretty slim, some airlines are much more dependent than others when it comes to losing luggage. If you’re checking your bag, hopefully not at Envoy air, as they’re placed last in a list of twelve popular airlines.
LuggageHero compared the statistics of twelve popular airlines. The results were spectacular. It seems that some airlines are more than three times likely to lose your bags than others. Some of the worst airlines that are known for losing luggage include Envoy Air, ExpressJet Airlines and Skywest Airlines. However, you can be pretty confident with the top three in this list: Delta Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and JetBlue.
Out of the 12 airlines, on average Delta Airlines mishandled 1.5 out of every 1000 bags, which is the best result. On the other hand, Envoy Air mishandled over five bags out of every 1000. If you compare these results to the industry average, which is 5.73 out of every 1000 bags, even Envoy Air is better than the industry average.
What’s the takeaway? Out of the twelve popular airlines, all of them lose less luggage than the industry average. If you’re flying with an unpopular airline, your chances are much slimmer. However, out of those twelve airlines, Envoy Air, ExpressJet Airlines, and Skywest Airlines performed the worst.
How to get reimbursed and compensated if you’ve lost your luggage
If your checked luggage is delayed, lost or damaged you have the legal right to get a reimbursement for your damages.
First of all, if you haven’t received your luggage, don’t leave the airport before contacting the airport staff first and filing a claim for lost luggage. The official name of the report is Property Irregularity Report. Make sure to fill it out fully, carefully stating all of the contents in your bag. When finished, make sure to get a copy as well as your baggage tag number.
After filing the claim, ask for an overnight kit. It’s basically a kit filled with most essentials, like a toothbrush, t-shirt and so on. Most airlines offer these if your luggage is lost.
Next, ask if the airline offers any reimbursements for the costs of necessary essentials. If that’s the case, make sure to ask what’s the maximum that you can spend. After a while, the airline will refund you the total amount that you can spend. However, be sure to do this in a written format by writing an official complaint about reimbursements for additional expenses due to lost luggage.
Optionally, if you have a credit card with insurance, call up your bank. Most banks offer some kind of insurance for lost and delayed baggage to their clients with credit cards.
If your luggage still isn’t found after 21 days, it’s officially declared lost. In this case, you can get a reimbursement of up to 3500$, depending on your destination country. Be sure to fill out the realistic prices of your items, more info about getting a compensation on this post.
The compensation for delayed luggage
If your luggage was delayed or lost, you could get compensated for your losses. Just make sure to file the claim in:
- Damaged luggage: 7 days;
- Missing or damaged contents: 7 days;
- Delayed or lost luggage: 21 days.
The amount of the compensation depends on your destination:
- Flights in the European Union. If you’re flying to Europe, flying from Europe or within Europe, in case of delayed luggage you can get a compensation of up to 1300 EUR;
- Flights within the U.S. If you’re flying domestic, you can get a compensation for delayed luggage of up to 3500$.
Some other tips:
- Expect to receive much less than the maximum reimbursement. Airlines usually know the average value of each case and are hesitant to pay more;
- You will get compensated only if you have receipts. Even if you had a five-year-old camera in there, you still need the receipt to get the reimbursement. (Although some airlines don’t ask this for smaller, regular items);
- Even if you have a receipt, airlines won’t compensate the full value. Rather, they value everything as used. For instance, if you bought a suit for 300$ two days ago, you would get back around 150$;
- Airlines won’t reimburse for anything valuable, fragile or perishable.
Forgot your luggage at the airport? Here’s what you should do
When you’re flying a connected flight, that’s booked separately; you have to take your bag upon arrival and check it in once again for the second flight. If that was the case, or you just forgot your luggage at the airport, here’s what you should do.
First of all, you should immediately contact the airport where you lost it. If you’ve forgotten to pick it up at the conveyer belt, you are likely to receive it back.
Most commonly your baggage will be shipped to you via FedEx or a similar carrier. Sometimes they charge you a bill for transportation costs, however, some airlines deliver it for free. The trick is to contact the airport staff immediately, otherwise, your luggage could be labeled as unclaimed luggage. Unfortunately, in this case, you’re not getting your suitcase back.
Airline statistics about lost luggage
According to a SITA research published in 2017, around 5.73 bags were lost out of every 1000 passengers in 2016. This percentage has been decreasing yearly, with it being 18.88 bags out of every 1000 passengers in 2007. That’s nearly a 70% drop in lost luggage in the last nine years.
How much does this correlate in dollars? Since 2007 the total passenger count has increased by a third, yet lost luggage has decreased by half. This resulted in savings of $2billion for the luggage industry.
SITA has stated that this decrease in lost luggage is mostly due to new technologies and process improvements by airlines and airports all over the world.
From the total misplaced luggage, around 47% was due to short timeframes between connecting flights. Failure to load the bags comes in second with 16%, followed by ticketing error (15%). The rest include bad weather, weight restrictions, customs, arrival mishandling, tagging errors and loading errors.
Out of all the lost luggage claims, only 7% end up totally lost and never to be seen again. In total, the chances of you losing your luggage completely are around 1 in 2500.
What do airports do with lost luggage
If your luggage is deemed as unclaimed luggage, it’s sold at an auction. Believe it or not, airlines actually do a lot to ensure that your luggage is not lost. Mainly, because they’re losing money on lost luggage due to the reimbursements being higher than the auction prices.
However, they don’t sell it right away. Usually, your suitcase sits at the terminal for about five days. During these days, your bag is checked for any clues of its owner. If no owner is found, it’s shipped to a warehouse where it stays for about 60 days. After that, it’s sold to an auction house.
If you lose your luggage, you can receive up to 3500$ in reimbursements from the responsible airline. Usually, the luggage at auctions is sold for nothing close to this amount, which results in huge losses for airline companies.
What’s more, not all of the airline companies sell your unclaimed luggage to auction houses. Some of them donate everything to charities, and some sell all of it in bulk to their partners: Companies that later resell each item separately.
How do you prevent your luggage from being lost in the future?
I know this may sound a bit naive, but if you would have done some precautions, maybe your luggage wouldn’t be lost. There are some common precautions that dramatically decrease the likelihood of your suitcase being lost.
Studies have shown that most commonly luggage is lost due to connecting layovers with short timeframes between them. It makes sense because in a rush the airline staff could not finish loading all of the cases before take-off. How do you avoid this? When booking layovers, make sure that the gap between your flights is at least 90 minutes.
Another huge reason for delayed luggage is late check-ins. It’s advised to check-in your bags at least 90 minutes before departure.
Okay, so you’ve decreased the likelihood of your luggage being lost. But you should also take some steps to increase the chances of it being found. (In case it gets lost)
- Use a luggage tag with your name, surname, destination, and phone number.
- Secure loose straps and other elements, as this increases the chances of it falling off the conveyor belts.
- Purchase a bright and unique colored case that stands out and is descriptive.
- Keep your valuables in your carry-on. It decreases the chances of your luggage being stolen.