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Lost Or Stolen Luggage? What To Do Next

lost luggage what to do

This spring, while returning to home from London, I barely made it onto my connecting flight to New York. My checked bag, however, did not. Two days later, the bag did arrive, but when it did, one item was missing: a full cosmetics bag, filled with several collections of pricey Pat McGrath makeup.

I was eventually reimbursed by the airline for my stolen items. Here’s what I did.

1. Stay organized. Keep every receipt.

Not only did I have my baggage claim tickets, I held onto the receipt issued to me by the delivery agency in charge of dropping off my bag the next day. Upon realizing that my makeup was indeed missing (who steals used cosmetics?), I called the delivery agency, as well as the airline. I even called the airport, but they passed me onto the airline. (It doesn’t hurt to check all your options.)

2. Contact the airlines right away. Use social media if necessary.

Airlines monitor social media platforms like Twitter for customer complaints and questions. In my frustration over my lost makeup, I dashed off a tweet, tagging the airline. Less than ten minutes later, the airline replied, and asked me to send them details via a private message. They then forwarded a link to file a claim.

3. File a claim right away.

In the case of stolen property, you’ll want to start the process as soon as possible. I’ve found that airlines are pretty responsive, but they have guidelines that you’ll have to meet. So it’s best to have all your data handy: When you flew, when you arrived, any layovers, as well precise details of stolen items.

While the process varies from airline to airline, if you’re asking to have stolen items replaced, you may have to turn in receipts of the original purchases. I happened to have bought all this makeup online, so I had every single receipt. If that weren’t the case, it’s likely I’d have to get the banks or the retailers involved to dig up a receipt from a year earlier.

I don’t know what would have happened if my lost products had been gifts, or family heirlooms. The safest option, given that the process requires receipts, is to not travel with irreplaceable or uninsured objects.

4. Stay organized, and friendly.

Once your claim makes its way into the airline systems, you’ll get emails from the airlines updating you on your claim status. Keep your claim number handy and use it in every message you exchange. Reply in a timely manner. Remember that there’s a real person on the other end of the email, so stay friendly and polite.

Exactly one month after filing my claim, I received a check to replace my makeup. (In my two most recent trips, I’ve packed all my cosmetics in my carry-on, next to my computer.)

5. Lessons learned.

Since complaining to my friends about my lost makeup saga, I’ve heard from fellow travelers who’ve had shoes and jackets disappear from checked bags, even on luggage loaded onto direct flights. Which is to say: Nothing is safe from prying hands, even in locked bags. (One friend, transporting a bottle of Champagne home in her suitcase, put a handwritten note next to it, stating that it was her birthday Champagne and pleading with the TSA not to take it. It worked.)

Along with making choices about what goes in your carry-on and what doesn’t, some travelers swear by wrapping up luggage at the airport in swaths of colored plastic.

On a recent return from France, I had a bag crammed full of valuable spirits, so I opted to take a chance on the wrap. Safe Bag, which I used on my flight from Paris to New York, quickly wrapped up my white bag in a bright red recyclable plastic film and added a trackable code. (The Safe Bag worker noticed that my bag was overweight by a kilo, and helpfully suggested that I take out one dress to bring the bag’s weight down to avoid extra baggage fees.)

The company’s premium service (about $20) includes insurance for theft, delays and damage. It offers live tracking and customer support.

My bag, and all of its contents, arrived safely. Although the product is merely layers of thin plastic film, cutting a suitcase out of its wrap is enough of a hassle that it’s meant to be a deterrent to sticky fingers. (It took ten minutes at home to get all the plastic off.)

Even so, it can get expensive to pay for wrapping before every flight, especially when I travel so often.

But it’s time to perhaps see plastic wrapping as part of the normal cost of travel. Because, for the first time in a long time, I boarded a flight with some confidence that my best treasures would likely arrive with me.