Lost Luggage: What You Need to Know

lost bag at airportback alone at airport plane in background
Kiattisak Lamchan/Dreamstime

Plagued by pre-trip nightmares of landing at your destination sans luggage? The odds of it happening to you are lower than you think.

Is the threat of lost luggage putting a damper on your vacation plans? 

Given the extra fees and the uncertainty surrounding checking a bag, it's no surprise that many travelers prefer to go carry-on only whenever possible. But according to a new report on lost and missing baggage from LuggageHero, a network of luggage-storage sites around the world, there might not be as much cause for concern as we think. The company took a deep dive into six years’ worth of mishandled baggage reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation and determined that airlines are losing less luggage now than they have in 30 years.

The Odds of Losing Your Bags

Of course, the problem hasn't been completely eradicated. Though the report determined that, statistically, just two or three out of every 1,000 travelers' bags will be lost or damaged, LuggageHero predicts that some half a million suitcases will go missing or suffer damage on domestic flights during the busy summer travel season. 

Some Airlines Love Your Luggage More Than Others

Historically speaking, regional carriers SkyWest, ExpressJet, and Envoy Air are the worst offenders. Among the bigger players, Delta has mishandled the least amount of luggage since 2012, followed closely by Spirit, JetBlue, and United. If you’re flying American, resist that gate-check tag; of all the major airlines analyzed, this one gets the lowest marks.

The Best Time to Fly

If you know you have to check a bag, consider booking a trip in September, when luggage is least often misplaced. But if that doesn’t work with your plans, you'll need to brace for the worst-case scenario. 

Preparing for the Worst 

Before you go, check your travel insurance policy to see if lost or damaged luggage is covered. If your stuff is MIA when you land, be sure to file a report with the airline immediately, while you’re still at the airport. Don’t leave the premises until you have a copy for your personal records, and document, document, document—you’ll have to show proof of loss to get reimbursement from the DOT, so take pictures and save your correspondence with the airline. It's also never a bad idea to document everything you pack before you head to the airport. 

Be Your Own Advocate

Obviously, you should get your money back for any fees paid to check a bag that goes missing, but you’ll probably have to advocate for a refund, as well as reimbursement for the costs of any essentials that were lost in the process.

Good luck, it's been said, favors the prepared. 

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