Some luggage gets temporarily lost--like my husband's suitcase to AND from our honeymoon destination--and some gets lost for good. How does it happen? How can an airline lose MY bag? Although the margin or error is reportedly low in the US, in January 2010 there were still approx 4.62 bags in 1000 that were 'mishandled.'
Into the Abyss According to the Air Transport Association, although 99.5% of bags get back to their owners within 5 days, there are the few that go into the baggage abyss. In the US, they end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, where they're sold to the public at bargain prices. In Canada, each airline is responsible for its own unclaimed luggage, hopefully resulting in greater accountability to get bags back to their rightful owners.
Protecting your Luggage
- Although easier said than done, avoid flight connections
- Travel with a carry-on
- Label your luggage with your contact details on the outside AND inside of your bag. If you bag gets lost, airlines will search the inner contents for contact details.
- Buy a Global Bag Tag, a heavy-duty metal tag whose serial number is entered into a database linking back to your name. There is an initial fee for the tags, plus a yearly fee to keep your membership active. Also consider the GPS bag tracker as well.
- If you notice your bag is missing at the airport, file a report right away. Many airlines have restricted timeframes within which missing luggage can be reported.
Finding your Luggage
- 24 hours - Most bags are returned within 24 hours
- 5 days - amout of time unclaimed bags are left around the terminal
- 6 - 60 days - bags sent to airline or central US warehouse and wait to be claimed
- 60+ days - donate bags and/or contents to charity & sell to salvage
- If there is no contact info on or in the bag, a description of the luggage and its contents are entered into World Tracer which acts as a lost and found system for 360+ airlines worldwide by matching bags with claims. Word to the wise; this service only provides tracking for 100 days.
- most airlines don't offer much as far as compensation for lost of delayed luggage
- if your bag does get permanently misplaced, airlines won't cover contents like jewelry, lap tops, cameras or money (but really, who would travel with money in checked luggage?)
- although not cheap, here's an alternative to checking your bags: VirtualBellhop.com provides 'door to destination' baggage services. As an example, when you ship a 50lb bag + standard golf bag from Seattle to Miami, the cost is approx: $190usd.