You arrive at the airport and eagerly await to be reunited with your checked luggage. You wait and one by one they start showing up. You know you checked 6 and you have 5 in hand. Then, suddenly the carrousel stops and so does your heart. One bag is missing.
This was our experience when we arrived in Prague. It is one thing for this to happen at a US airport where you know the basic procedure, but in a foreign country what do you do? Well, we looked around for the baggage claim, they all have them because luggage can and will be lost anywhere. Here is tip number one, make sure you keep your luggage tag close at hand, they will need this and it will be your best weapon.
Our luggage was found and was on the next flight out of Paris and they delivered it to our apartment the next morning, so for us all was well. But what happens when it doesn't have a happy ending? What are your rights and what can you do?
My biggest irritation is that the airlines are now charging you for checking baggage and in some cases, charging you to lose your baggage. In 2010 the airline industry made over $3 billon in baggage fees alone. The crazy part is that they collect that money with little accountability or consequences when they make mistakes.
As a concumer however, know that this is beginning to change. Don't expect the changes to be quick or large at first however. Everything in this industry opporates in slow motion with the exception of fare hikes. A few things are in the works from the Feds which will force the airlines to pay you back the baggage fee when they lose your checked baggage. The hope here is cut into their huge revenue source, but this should be just a start. Just the threat however has created enough of an incentive for some airlines like Delta to invest in a new tracking system for lost bags to hopefully improve their system.
What is needed however is a set minimum compensation to passengers whose bags maybe weren't lost, but rather delayed a day or two or five. If they find it no mater how long it takes, they take the attitude of, look at how wonderful we are! We found it! You are now only intitled to basic compensation to get you by until your bag is found. Toiletries, basic clothing etc, but it is difficult because they all see the law differently. There are many advocates working to this end and just like the minimum compensation for passengers who are bumped, I think it will happen especially if it continues to be a big problem and the complaints keep coming.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if your bags are lost. Use of these rules will vary depending on where they lose your bag. These are rights the airline will never tell you by the way:
- Under the Montreal Convention, an international treaty that governs compensation for the victims of air disasters, you are entitled to a maximum of about $1,800. if your bag is lost or partly lost. (This varies, and is based on a combination of worldwide currencies.) This can be in cash or in the form of an airline voucher.
- According to federal law, the airline is liable for a minimum of $3,300 per customer if lost bags are never found. Be careful because if part of it is found this rule disappears and they can get away with a small fraction of what it is really worth.