By Forrest Brown, CNN
It’s enough to give anyone already worried about a mess in the sky another reason to release an antacid: the possibility of baggage being delayed, lost, or damaged.
The concern is true.
After all, Delta Airlines recently decided to fly a plane from London to its hub in Detroit packed with a thousand missing bags and zero passengers due to the infamous breakdown in service at Heathrow Airport. Waves of cancellations and delays are becoming common.
Handing out checked bags may seem like a leap of confidence these days.
How bad is the problem?
A recent report from the US Department of Transportation showed an increase in the number of “mishandled” bags. (Any lost, damaged, delayed or stolen baggage is considered poorly handled).
In May 2021, 0.38 out of 100 planned bags were handled. This number has increased to 0.56 per 100 bags planned for May 2022.
At 0.93 bags per 100 planned, regional carrier Republic Aiways had the most bags handled in May 2022 among the 17 US airlines in the report. Republic operates flights to American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express).
However, that still puts more than 99 out of 100 bags going where they need to go without incident.
Scott Keyes, founder of Flight Deals and RScott’s Cheap Flights website, on Ravel’s advice site, said it encourages people not to let news of baggage problems stop their flights and vacations.
“Every bag lost is a major disruption to the people whose bag is there — and I certainly don’t want to downplay that — but I want people to have the proper perspective that in the vast majority of cases, your flight is going to fly and your checked bag will arrive,” he told CNN Travel. .
Paula Tweedal, Senior Vice President of Travel at AAA, sees better days ahead.
“As staffing improves, more pilots are trained and the frequency of flights increases, we will see this problem begin to disappear,” she said in an email to CNN Travel.
In the meantime, you are not completely helpless. There are things you can do and strategies you can take to help avoid or at least reduce the impact of lost and late baggage.
Before you go to the airport
Non-stop flight reservations: If you’re really concerned about your checked baggage, Keyes said, prioritize non-stop flights or at least short layovers with a good amount of time.
“Bags are more likely to get lost in this inter-plane transfer when connecting, especially if there is a tight connection.” This doubles, he said, for international flights with narrow connections.
Consider discount airlines: He said full-service airlines are more likely to lose your bags than discount airlines, which tend to have more non-stop flights and are less likely to lose a bag in transit.
Older airlines tend to have more connecting flights. Keys said he wouldn’t make a booking decision based solely on this, but it was “an interesting side factor to consider.”
Take pictures of your luggage and its contents: Jo Hoban, a travel agent in Spanish Fork, Utah, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City, told CNN Travel that she advises her clients to “take a picture of their bags because the first thing airline offices will ask is what the brand name of the bag is, what is The color of the bag, the size of the bag and its contents.”
She also said that people should put what they plan to pack on the bed and take a picture of that too. If the bag is lost, this helps create a content history.
Use of baggage tracking: “Many airlines allow you to see the status of your bags in their apps, which can help you have peace of mind when your bag is on the flight with you — or at least give you insight into the location of your bag in case it is delayed,” Scott’s Cheap Flights in Email press release.
Twidale says you can set up standalone tracking on your own. One option is called AirTag, and it connects to your Apple device so you can keep track of the tag’s location.
Select your bags correctly from the inside as well: Consumer advocacy group Travelers United says to put your information inside, too, in case your outer label is torn. Hoban made the same suggestion.
“I took a suitcase from the carousel at the airport in Salt Lake [City]. Fortunately, I knew people who took my bag so it was easy to replace. “But then again, what if I don’t know these people? What if they are complete strangers and get my bag home? I hope they are good, honest people and I see I have a name and phone number in the bag that they can call me and tell me what’s wrong.”
handbag strength: Airlines can never lose your baggage that you never check in. Twidale suggests packing as lightly as possible and using only handbags. You’ll save time when you leave the airport and have peace of mind.
Review your credit card coverage: Before you buy additional travel insurance, Keyes suggested that you check your credit card policy for travel protection.
You may get supplemental compensation (for what the airlines do not cover) not only for lost bags, but also compensation for things you may need to purchase while waiting for your bag.
At the airport before traveling
Check your bags in time: Travelers United says last-minute baggage check-ins can lead to a higher chance of trouble.
“Don’t stress the system. The slightest delay can have serious consequences when your luggage is sailing below the conveyor belt and being picked up for security screening with little time to spare,” its website says.
Turn on the phone’s camera again: Keys suggested that before handing over the checked bags, open them up and take a picture.
“If your bag has really been lost, and you have any valuables in there…having a photo of what was there will really strengthen your case for compensation after the accident.”
Check the destination of your baggage tag: Travelers United also advises you to double-check your airline’s baggage tags and make sure they’re going where you’re going, especially if you’re checking in on the curb. The North Carolina Consumer Council reminds people to keep their baggage claim tag or label.
If your baggage is delayed
Discover other places at the airport: If your bags aren’t in the designated pick-up carousel, travel advice site The Points Guy suggests checking out nearby carousels and if you don’t see them there, try the airline’s baggage counter. This is also a good time to launch the above-mentioned tracking apps.
Report your problem and fill out the forms at the airport: If your bags do not appear, tell the airline.
“Often, airline staff will explain that baggage has been located but will be delayed until the next flight,” Travelers United says. “If you have the time, wait. If not, fill out the appropriate forms for lost baggage at the airport.”
Let the airline deliver your bags: If an airline can locate your bags, but it will take hours before they arrive, Keys said, make sure the delegates have the address they will be at and use the airline’s delivery service.
Keep receipts: “If you buy anything to be able to go the days without your luggage—from new swimwear to toothpaste—keep the receipts. You may need these for compensation,” advises Scott’s Cheap Flights.
If your luggage is lost
Check the airline’s claims and your compensation policy: Every airline should have website information on what to do if your bag is lost. For example, this is the Delta Airlines page. This is the American Airlines page. This is the Southwest Airlines page. And airlines located outside the United States have their own regulations. Here’s what to do if you’re traveling with British Airways.
If the airline is not helpful: “If the airline is slow to compensate … don’t be afraid to file a complaint with the Department of Transportation,” Keys said regarding US airlines. You can file a complaint here.
“They have an aviation executive where they are more proactive in protecting consumers and trying to clamp down on airlines when they don’t offer customers the kind of compensation or reimbursement they are required to do under federal laws.”
For information on making claims for UK flights, click here. And check out the UK Civil Aviation Authority website here. Get more information about Canadian flights here.
Limitation of Liability: There are fine print, exceptions, and hurdles related to paperwork/documentation, but you can eventually get paid for your lost bags.
For US domestic flights, the maximum amount of liability allowed under DOT regulation is $3,800. Airlines are free to pay more than the allowed limit, but there is no need to do so. For international flights, this figure is $ 1,780. Find out more from the Department of Transportation here.
Damaged bags: If you see that your luggage is damaged while you are at the airport, report it there. Airlines are not required to pay damages for damage to items caused by improper packing, according to the DOT, nor are they liable for “certain categories of items (eg: fragile items, electronics, cash, perishables..etc.). .)”
They are responsible for damage to wheels, handles and straps.
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