Recovering your lost luggage

January 2, 2008 6:48:36 PM PST
If your luggage is lost, report any problems to the airline immediately. The airlines will do everything possible to find your luggage before declaring it lost. Some will take more than a week to classify it as lost. In an extreme case, it can take as much as a month. It's estimated that about two percent of all missing bags remain lost.

The Department of Transportation strongly suggests you insist on filling out a form with the airline the day your baggage turns up missing.

Once your baggage has been declared lost, you'll have to make an itemized list of everything in your suitcase. You'll also have to fill out a second more detailed form. Your claim could be delayed if you don't fill out this form.

If you flew on two different carriers, usually the airline you last flew is responsible for processing your claim even if the first carrier lost the bag.

Assign values to everything lost. Don't forget to put in the claim for the lost suitcase. The airline will not pay full replacement value. Instead they will pay you for its depreciated value. The maximum claim the airlines are required to pay is $3,000 for a domestic flight and approximately $1,000 for baggage lost on an international flight. The maximum claim amount for international flights changes daily based on that day's value of 1,000 SDR or "special drawing rights" per passenger. The daily value of SDR can be found at

The Department of Transportation estimates it takes an airline anywhere from 6 weeks to three months to pay you for your lost luggage.

A similar claims process is involved when luggage is damaged. Open your suitcase immediately to check for damaged contents or any stolen items. Any damage or lost or stolen items should be reported immediately to the airlines. The same limits apply for damaged luggage as lost luggage.