What to do if the airport loses your luggage: a complete guide

Whether you're travelling to hotter climes or visiting friends and family abroad, your luggage is one of your key concerns when taking flights. We've all heard horror stories about lost, delayed or damaged luggage. But, while these incidents are thankfully rare, understanding what to do if your items are lost is helpful knowledge to have. We cover everything you need to do if the airport loses your luggage in our complete guide:

Why would an airport lose your luggage?

Airports lose luggage for multiple different reasons. Perhaps your luggage is diverted to the incorrect plane, or your suitcase is accidentally left off the flight for whatever reason. The tags airports place on luggage can often help get your luggage back to you after a delay. For example, if your suitcase is found the day after your flight it may be shipped to you to collect from the airport the following day.

Luggage can also be lost through damage. If your suitcase zip fails, for example, you may lose certain items that aren't recovered by the airline. If the tag on your luggage is damaged or lost before it is packed onto the flight this can also lead to your bag staying in one place while you jet off to your destination.

Steps to follow if your luggage is lost

If you've arrived at your airport and your luggage is nowhere to be found, staying calm and level-headed is the ideal way to resolve the problem. Here are the steps you can follow as soon as you know your luggage may be lost:

1. Report your missing baggage

You'll first need to report your missing luggage as soon as possible, typically at the airline help desk. You have 21 days to claim for delayed or lost baggage, or 7 days for damage to your suitcase or contents. It's important to report as soon as possible so the airline can begin looking for your bags.

2. Fill in a PIR form

On reporting, the airline should give you a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) to fill out. This form allows you to provide information on the luggage that is missing. If you have a photograph of your suitcases, this can be a helpful addition to your form to help airlines find your specific baggage.

3. Ask for compensation of essential items

Most airlines offer some kind of compensation for missing or delayed luggage. However, this is typically a minimal amount and may be as limited as a toothbrush and a select few other essential items. Asking for items is important, but you'll probably also need to purchase your own essentials alongside what the airline provides.

4. Keep all receipts for your claim

If you make additional purchases, whether it's toiletries or clothing, keeping receipts for these items is important for when you are claiming compensation from the airline.

What should I do if my luggage is damaged?

If your baggage is damaged, the initial reporting process is the same. The main difference is ensuring you have evidence of the damage to your items or your suitcase. If valuables, such as electronics, have been damaged during the flight, you may choose to get quotes for repair. You must report damage within 7 days of your flight to be eligible to claim.

How to claim back on your holiday insurance for lost luggage

If your policy includes Delayed Baggage, you may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance if your luggage is delayed on the outward journey. This typically takes the form of a fixed benefit payment you can claim after a delay of a certain amount of time. It is designed to help cover the cost of essential items such as toiletries and clothing whilst you wait for your luggage to arrive.

If your baggage is found to be completely lost after 21 days, you may also be able to make a claim through your travel insurance under the personal possessions section. The steps to make a claim are as follows:

  • Report missing baggage to the airline
  • Complete your PIR form
  • List all of the missing items with value
  • Source receipts for missing items
  • Contact your insurance company to make a claim

Be aware that travel insurance doesn't generally cover 'new for old' like your home insurance might, so you are only likely to be able to claim what your possessions are worth at the time, rather than what you paid for them.

However, if your home insurance includes cover away from home, you may be able to make a claim for lost items via your home policy instead.

What happens if I lose my luggage at the beginning of the trip?

It can be particularly stressful if you lose your luggage on the way out of your home country. No one wants to start their holiday with none of the items they've carefully packed. As with any case of lost luggage, reporting to the airline first is the ideal thing to do. Many airlines in popular holiday destinations may have pre-prepared essentials packages to tide you over before your luggage is found.

It's important to remember that if your luggage is found, you may need to travel back to the airport to collect it. Airlines may sometimes transport your luggage to you through local couriers. If you have health concerns that prevent free travel, it may be worth informing the airport to see how they can help.

Is the process different if my luggage is lost on the way back?

Losing your luggage on the way home is also stressful but easier to manage. On your home turf, you can report your missing luggage to the airline, fill out all necessary forms and travel home to await news. As your essentials are waiting for you at home, you typically won't need to claim for necessities, allowing you to use your travel insurance to claim lost luggage after the 21-day waiting period.

Planning a holiday?

If you plan to go abroad, ensuring you have the right travel insurance cover is a good way to be protected financially. Total Travel Protection offers various insurance packages to suit your needs and health. From travel insurance over 70 to pre-existing medical conditions, we can cater for your next trip. Get in touch with us today to find out more.