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Lost luggage, particularly when traveling to run a tournament, is a nightmare.
It’s not new and it’s not rare. Nearly 700,000 bags were mishandled in the first quarter of 2022, according to data published by the Department of Transportation. (By the way, “mishandled” is a euphemism for anything that are "lost, delayed, damaged or pilfered,” according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics).
And yes, we all know the best practices about keeping a carry-on with spare clothes, having a tag with your name on it, checking in early and not having connecting flights that are too close together. But what else can you do?
Well, if you’re savvy, you’re going to follow protocols. The Points Guy has some recommendations, including the following, many of which come directly from the above-linked article:
Ask what the airline will cover: While you’re filing a lost baggage report (and you will), be sure to ask what the airline is willing to provide for compensation as well as to what extent it will reimburse you. For example, some carriers will keep amenity kits on hand in baggage offices to pass out to customers with missing luggage. Others will even provide courtesy car seats if your child's seat was. In addition, they should provide some reimbursement for reasonable expenses.
Be sure to double-check your airline's policy for delayed bags, some of which are outlined below (This list was current as of June 2022):
- Alaska Airlines: Allows reimbursement for “travel essentials.”
- American Airlines: Allows reimbursement “for items you need immediately while away from home without your bags.”
- Delta Air Lines: Allows “reasonable expense reimbursements” of generally $50 per day for the first five days.
- United Airlines: Allows “reimbursement for expenses” based on acceptable proof of claim.
- Southwest Airlines: Allows for "reimbursement of reasonable expenses you may have incurred."
The agent with whom you file the missing bag report should be able to provide you with the guidelines for the given carrier, including whether or not you’re eligible for a refund of any checked baggage fee you paid.
Note: Remember that “reasonable expenses” may have varying definitions, so be sure to get that clear at the outset.
Keep ALL Receipts for What You Need to Purchase: From toothpaste to tennis shoes, you’ll need these to get reimbursed.
Find Out What Your Credit Card Will Pay For: Many travelers are unaware of lost luggage reimbursement policies offered by their credit card. The Points Guy notes that many allot a set amount they will cover for purchases that need to be made if luggage is delayed by at least six hours. (Be aware that some cards may cover this only if you purchase the entire flight on their card). In addition, this may be considered secondary coverage; the airline might be the one the credit card expects to pay.
Make The Airline Deliver Your Bags to You: Don’t get sucked into going to the airport to pick them up; the airline is capable of delivering your bags to your hotel, or to wherever you ask.
Go High Tech
What else can you do, outside of the steps outlined above? Consider a more proactive step; many travelers are investing in electronic tags that are compatible with smartphones and can deliver city-specific information about the location of bags. And THAT can be an impressive source of ammunition when negotiating with the baggage department of your airline. Here’s a case study of how they work.
Here is a quick review of five of brands of tags available on the market, courtesy of Good Housekeeping. The article covers Apple’s Air Tags, Tile Pro’s Pro Bluetooth Tracker, LandAirSea’s GPS Tracker, Tracki’s GPS Tracker, Dynotag’s Stainless Steel Smart Luggage ID Tag. However, there are plenty more, including UVO Tag’s Location-Enabled Smart Luggage Tags, Americaloc’s 300 Mini Portable Tracker – and more.
Note: Remember that some tags may be compatible with iPhone and some with Android, and like all technologies, can become obsolete; periodically check to make sure your tag is still compatible with your OS and still functioning as it should.