10 Tips to Find Lost Luggage
So your bag was sucked into the lost luggage vortex of a major airline? Brutal. Sorry. Below are some tips that will help you find your bag and help you avoid dancing the lost bag tango the next time you fly.
Until I had kids I never checked a bag if I could help it. I was a true road warrior. I had a well worn black TravelPro wheelie that I could pack for over a week’s worth of travel. I’m still that person from time to time but not when I’m traveling with kids. I’ve been stuck checking bags more than I’d like. Until recently I was pretty lucky keeping track of my checked bags. However, my recent experience losing and then finding my bag (the airline didn’t) taught me some things about tracking down a lost bag.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #1 File a Report
When your bag is mislaid, file a report at the airport. You might be tired and tempted to leave the airport and file over the phone. DON’T. Do not be tempted to do this over the phone. It is MUCH more challenging to get a live person from any of the major airlines on the phone. Build a paper trail. Your “file number” or “claim number” will be essential in the follow-up and claim process. It should include your name, contact info, flight number, bag tag number, date, a description of the bag and some of its contents. It is much easier to build a verifiable case in person.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #2 Double Check the Lost Report
When you file a report, double check it before you leave the airport. Make sure the agents creating the report have described your bag properly. Make sure you list some unique things they might find in your bag to ID it. (Sadly, it appears people will be pawing through your bag to identify it by its contents. It is quite possible all the tags and exterior identifiers will have been ripped off or ignored.) Make sure the airline lists the correct bag tag number on your lost bag claim. If you are traveling with multiple bags make sure the bag number in your file is the one the airline is looking for. (In my case the agent entered the wrong number from the start and the bag that was actually missing just sat in an airport for three days. Eventually, I was able to figure out the issue AND get someone to look for the bag number of the duffle that was actually missing). Once you are following the action over the phone it will be the luck of the draw as to how helpful the agent you get is going to be. Some agents might even claim to be correcting an error in your file or adding information when they aren’t. Grrrr.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #3 Persistence Pays
Be persistent. When my bag was lost for four days, if I hadn’t kept bugging the airline they would have been content to just let me listen to a recording stating that they were still looking for my bag. Ask for a representative. Be polite but be persistent. Get them to contact the airports where the bag might be or get them to connect you to a real live person at that location to look for your “rolling purple duffle” with a rainbow strap. This will get translated to ‘hard soft prpl wheels” in the electronic messages to the airports. It is ever so much better to get a real live person on the phone.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #4 Look Yourself
Use your own eyes. Go to the airport. Take a look for yourself. I’ve had several people tell me they only ever found their bags in a timely fashion by going to see for themselves. When my bag was lost, I was able to cross San Francisco off the list of possible locations by going and looking myself. Similarly, when the bag was finally found and flown back to me the representative in the airport tried to tell me it was still missing. WHY?!? Since I could actually see it, I was able to let her know that in addition to getting a call telling me otherwise I had just spotted it in a locked bin to her left. My sister-in-law only ever got a bag back in Rome by having a friend look for it as he left the airport.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #5 Escalate Your Case
Escalate. If you aren’t getting helpful people on the phone politely ask for supervisors. Consider calling the local (not toll-free) number to follow-up. It’s possible you’ll get someone actually located domestically rather than in a call center half-way around the world. Similarly, after the five days, file a claim for it with the airline and any difference with your homeowners or renters insurance. I’ve heard stories about bags that were “miraculously” recovered after money was involved.
Find Lost Luggage Tip #6 Social Media
Some airlines are surprisingly active and on top of their social media accounts. In 140 characters or less share your plight and ask for help. Airlines will want to avoid bad PR and again it is likely that you’ll get someone involved to help you find your lost luggage who isn’t in a call center on the other side of the world.
Avoiding Lost Luggage
The name of the game is avoiding lost luggage. At a minimum, if your bag does get lost, taking preventative measures may shorten the length of time your bag is stuck in the lost luggage vortex.
Avoiding Lost Luggage Tip #1 Carry-On
Carry-On. It goes without saying this is the best bet. But from time to time the bins will be full and you’ll be asked to check your carry-on. If you must, insist that the bag gets properly tagged with computer-generated tags. This is especially true if you are changing planes or god forbid connecting to a different airline. Ask to get the bag back at the gate if at all possible so you can take it to your next flight.
Avoiding Lost Luggage Tip #2 Make Your Bag Unique
Add identifying characteristics to your bag. A red bow is too ubiquitous. Count the number of red ribbons you see on black rollies the next time you are at baggage claim. Consider a unique colored ribbon from the start then add on from there. Add bright colored tags with your contact info inside and out. Consider bright or colorful straps. I am looking into fabric paint.
Avoiding Lost Luggage Tip #3 Take Photos
Photograph your luggage. Keep a photo of your bags in your phone’s memory. If you are filing a report with the airline show them the photo. The airlines have dozens of different ways of describing bags, not all of them are terribly accurate. A picture is worth a thousand words when you are looking for a bag. If you forget before you get to the airport snap a photo just before you check your bag.
Avoiding Lost Luggage Tip #4 Technology can Help
Some airlines appear to be better than others in tagging and tracking your bag. Even then there is still the risk that tags are ripped off. Why depend on fate when technology can fill the breach. Although it’s not your job to find your own bag, you are going to be the most motivated person searching for your bag. What if you could track it like a lost phone? I will be checking out Trackdot (available via Amazon). Lug Loc (which uses GSM technology), and TraceMe for my upcoming summer travels.
Lastly, if your luggage is lost remember that 98% of all lost bags are eventually found. Those are some pretty good odds you will find your lost luggage!
You can find me or follow me on Twitter here: @gettingbalance