For the 50+ Traveler

One of the most stressful things about air travel is the (hopefully rare) occurrence of an airline losing your luggage. If you're on vacation, or traveling for a wedding or social event, getting to your destination without your luggage can be a real doozy. You may not know what to do.

Here's what to do when the airline loses your luggage so you can do your best with an unfortunate situation and enjoy your trip.

What To Do With Delayed Luggage

When you arrive at your destination and your luggage does not, you will likely have to file a report with the airline near baggage claim and they may have no idea where your luggage is. Or, if it is found, they sill may not know when it will arrive. This is why it's critical to keep any tags or receipts from your checked luggage -- that baggage claim number will help them track down your suitcase.

If there is a chance your luggage just didn't make it to a connecting flight, the airline should be able to predict the earliest it can be recovered and sent to your airport. You will likely be given a claim number and you'll need to let the airport know where you will be staying so they can forward your luggage when it's found. Depending on your location, it may be faster for you to go back to the airport and retrieve it yourself, but many airlines offer a delivery service for recovered luggage.

Before you leave the support desk, be sure to ask for whatever supplies they can provide you with -- an overnight shirt, toothbrush, or other toiletries. Grab a reference number for your claim and find out how to follow up on your bag's status; some airlines have a link they'll send you to check, others will want you to call in for status updates.

How To Replace Lost Luggage On Domestic Flights

While claim amounts can vary from airline to airline, you can most likely claim up to $200 in lost value, but thanks to changes with the Department of Transportation made in 2009, you can claim up to $3,400 if you have the proper documentation to prove your valuables were indeed worth that much. Simply knowing the new regulations can be a very useful tactic in negotiating the value of your lost items.

People board airplane on the tarmac, sunset in the background

How To Replace Lost Luggage On International Flights

International travel is regulated differently than flights within the United States. Here, you can usually only claim up to about $1,600 in lost luggage, if it is indeed confirmed lost by the airline with no hope of retrieval. You'll want to be sure to look up the rules for claims set forth by the Montreal Convention.

How To Make A Claim If your Luggage Is Lost

When your luggage is lost, you'll need to fill out a claim form explaining in detail what was in your suitcase. Be aware that airlines will only pay a depreciated value for things you're claiming, so unless you can prove that something you lost is brand new with a receipt, they won't pay out the full price.

If you've had to go out and find replacement clothes or gear to get by with until your luggage was confirmed lost, the airline will also pay you a depreciated rate for your incurred expenses for replacement pieces.

Just know that no matter what you claim was lost, you'll likely have to haggle a bit and you may be required to show some sort of documentation for higher priced checked items.

What Happens Next?

It can take airlines anywhere from a few short hours to a full month to locate your checked suitcase, and if you've filed a claim, it can take weeks to months to finally get word on reimbursement. In some cases, an airline may come back and simply offer you travel vouchers or travel points worth more than the items on your claim, so you'll need to decide if the deal is a good one. This offer may have points that expire before you can use them, or be subject to blackout dates that make it less advisable to take this deal.

If you booked your travel using a travel rewards credit card, your card might have its own line of travel insurance for lost items. Be sure to check with the card you booked your travel on to see if they have any benefits that could help cover the cost of lost items.

Additionally, if the airline isn't much help, your home or rental insurance may have some coverages for property loss that occurred outside of your home or apartment -- so be sure to check around if you're facing some unexpected expenses due to lost luggage.

Hopefully you'll never have an airline lose your luggage. But if you do, these points can be helpful in recovering any incurred cost of replacing lost items and making the situation slightly less stressful.

Truly lost luggage is thankfully a rarity in modern travel, but delayed luggage can be a real stressor on a trip. We hope these tips are helpful just in case lost luggage ever impacts you!