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How to Recover Lost Luggage From an Airport

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Dixie shares her experience and expertise in all things luggage-related.

Make Your Luggage Stand out so You Don't Lose It!

I stood at the luggage carousel waiting for my bag; the only problem was that my luggage was not there. No amount of waiting would make the bag appear, and the weather only made it worse as I had a long commute ahead of me. As soon as I saw that there was no sign of my luggage appearing, I made my way to the customer service and baggage claim section of the airport. I listened as the agent helped the people in front of me.

Here are the questions that you will be asked if you lose a bag. We will work on preventing this from happening in a moment, but right now I want you to think about it in the way you would if you were at the airport.

Guest: "I would like to report a missing bag. It was not on the baggage carousel."

Agent: "Which flight were you on?"

Guest: "The one that just came in from New York."

Agent: "Flight number?"

Guest: "556"

Agent: "Can you describe the bag or bags that you lost?"

Guest: "Yes. It was a black suitcase, with silver zippers, wheels, and pockets in the front."

Agent: "Brand?"

Guest: "I don't know. Samsonite or something. I don't know."

Agent: "Hard side or soft side luggage?"

Guest: "Soft."

I could go on, but as you can see, there is more to knowing your bag than just knowing its color. You will also need to know its approximate size, maker, and contents.

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When this happened to me, I decided that from then on I was going to always have the information about my checked bags and their contents. That way, if it ever happened again, it would be easier for the airlines to get my things back to me in a timely manner.

Quick and Helpful Luggage Tips

Here are the tips and tricks that have helped me to get my bag back, or even better, to never lose it in the first place.

  • Don't choose black or brown luggage, unless you have to for work. Choose colors and patterns. Grays, blues, and tans also count as popular choices. Choose colors that stand out.
  • Don't tie ribbons or scarves to handles. They can get caught while loading and unloading the plane, tearing up the suitcase, jerking the suitcase in the opposite direction, or causing your suitcase to be damaged because it gets stuck in something.
  • Mark every part of the suitcase with your identifying information. I tuck a business card and a pre-filled luggage tag into every single compartment and pocket as well as a copy of my ticket and flight information. When a suitcase was literally crushed in China, they were able to contact me from the business cards distributed everywhere.
  • Remove all prior bag tags and destination tags before you fly. It is not cool, it does not impress other travelers and it only increases the chances that your suitcase will be taking a fun trip without you.
  • Use personal identifiers. Include on your luggage tags a way to reach you at all of the places you are going to, both to and from. You cannot predict on which side your bag will be lost at. If you are a member of any frequent flyer club, write your member number on each luggage tag as well. Why? Because the airline will have your complete address and contact information attached to your frequent flyer number.
  • Invest in a bag strap. If you must travel with a black or other neutral suitcase, buy a bag strap. They come in bright colors, and you wrap it around the sides of the bag, making it easier to identify. It folds down small like a belt, so all you have to do is place it in your suitcase when you are done using it.
  • Include other contact info. Get the phone number of someone at either end of your destination so that if there is a problem while you are in the air, it can be resolved easier.

Check Your Bags to Make Sure They Are Yours

The blue bag slid down the carousel, I was sure that it was mine. As it circled to me, I grabbed it and looked at the luggage tag. The wrong name was on my bag. Good thing I looked. Across the way, an older man was claiming my bag. I called after him, we switched bags and had a laugh. You may not be so lucky.

Choose a brightly colored luggage tag. A friend of mine has a photo of her pets laminated as her luggage tag. Just because you think that a certain bag is yours does not mean that it is. Always double check.

How to Recover Lost Baggage

When you get past the point of waiting for your bag and it does not arrive, you will need to find the customer service center that is located somewhere near baggage claim.
You will be asked the following information:

  • Your name
  • Flight information
  • Information about color/size/style/manufacturer of bag
  • Way to contact you
  • Description of bag/s lost (anything distinctive)
  • Contents of bag/s
  • If you have any medication in your bag, you will be asked what it is.

The agent who is helping you has been dealing with unpleasant people until now. Be understanding. Be kind. Have your information ready to go.

After you have made your claim, the agent will give you an approximate amount of time that it will take before you hear from them. They will give you a small slip of paper in some cases that will list off everything that they just told you. If they do not, ask if you can write down everything that was just told to you.

After you leave, you may get a call right away saying that your bag was found. It may not work that way. Variables such as weather and passenger load can affect how long it will take to get your bag to you.

Owning a brightly-colored suitcase can help you distinguish your own belongings from a lineup of dark and neutral tones!

Owning a brightly-colored suitcase can help you distinguish your own belongings from a lineup of dark and neutral tones!

If Your Bag Is Lost Forever

In the event that your bag is lost forever by the airline, then they will let you know what your options are and what your compensation will be. In the event that you are claiming expensive items as part of the lost items, you will be asked to prove that you owned these items prior to the flight. A receipt is helpful.

Travel insurance is something to consider if you are traveling with expensive items. Make sure that it covers lost luggage.

Damaged Luggage

You may get your luggage back and notice that it has been nicked, dented, torn, scuffed, or is dirty. If you contact the carrier, most of them will inform you that normal wear and tear of luggage is not covered by their policy of replacement.

In the event that your bag is damaged outside of these parameters, contact the same customer service people in baggage claim will be able to provide help to you with filling out the needed forms and paperwork to reimburse you for your luggage.

New Technology for Bag Tracking

Recently, news agencies have released a GPS device that tells you everything about your bags' location and even beeps to let you know that the bag is close to you. Look up Luggage GPS online.

Damaged Contents

Sometimes, your luggage makes it to you, but your contents are damaged when you see them. You don't realize it until you are home. The best course of action is to contact the airline and see what they are willing to do to resolve this for you. In some cases, you may have recourse, and in others, none at all.

A woman next to me on a plane shared a story that when she opened her suitcase at home, the entire suitcase was filled with soapy water. She called the airline, they asked her if she packed shampoo. She said that she did, and they denied her claim. Be mindful of anything that you packed that could have caused damage as well as the airline.

Questions & Answers

Question: I forgot to collect one of my bags from airport, how do I get it returned to me?

Answer: You will have to return to the airport or be prepared to pay a shipping charge if you left the bag in an airport different from where you live or are traveling to.

Question: I think that somebody took my luggage. Can you tell me how to recover it?

Answer: Yes.

The first thing that you will want to do is check with that airline carrier's baggage service office to see if the bag is there, and make a claim with them. They will let you know all of your options.

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