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Tips For Not Losing Luggage

Tips For Not Losing Luggage

Originally published on Kron4’s website

It is one of those things that ruins a vacation - the airline losing or misplacing your luggage.

It's a nightmare that affects millions of airline passengers a year. The good news is only one half of 1% of luggage checked-in gets lost. But with about a billion pieces of luggage checked in every year, that still means five million unhappy travelers with lost luggage.

We looked into one case that had an unexpected outcome.

For Carol Frost, it seemed like a lost cause, but she wasn't about to give up.

"I know that luggage doesn't disappear. It has to be somewhere," says Carol.

This was her fifth trip to an airport in search of a suitcase missing more than four weeks now. The bag contained her favorite clothing and holiday gifts for her large family.

"I have nothing," says Carol. "I have no Christmas presents. Nobody got presents."

Somewhere between SFO and Lincoln , Nebraska with a stop in Denver , one of her two checked-in bags went astray. It's something many travelers fear.

Between the time you check in your luggage and claim it at the destination, it will go through a maze of conveyer belts and luggage carts.

One of her baggage claim tags provided a clue.

"Another claim check has someone else's name on it entirely, and the destination for this is Sydney , Australia ."
It seems Carol's bag went south because of the airline's mix-up in baggage tags. The solution seemed simple enough: send the bag back from Australia .

Instead, Carol said she ended up on a wild goose chase. She made repeated trips to airports because when she called  the airline for information, she either ended up stuck on hold, talking to a computer, disconnected, or given wrong information about where and when her suitcase would be returned.

"I would just like an apology, and I'd like to know from a human being, that at least someone is doing something, instead of me calling everyday and just getting this runaround. It's very frustrating," she says. 

The airlines say out of all the bags misplaced, they recover 98% of  them and return them to their rightful owners within a few hours. But for those who never get their luggage back, that's small consolation.

Carol's unfortunate experience was with United Airlines. But, according to the Department of Transportation, American Eagle Airlines consistently had the highest rate of mishandled baggage complaints last year. Next was TWA, then United. Alaska Airlines had the lowest rate of mishandled baggage reports.

On this day, the hunt takes Carol to the SFO Police Department's lost and found room where bags without tags that connect them to any airline are kept. But, we didn't find it. Then, it is back to United Airlines baggage office, where Carol finally gets some consoling information.

Says the clerk, "They're not only going to reimburse you for everything in your bag, but if they find your bag with all your contents, they're going to also send that bag to you too."

To reduce the chance of losing your luggage, be sure to clearly identify your luggage inside as well as outside.

SFO Spokesman Ron Wilson reccomends that you, "Have a permanent identification inside the luggage, because the airline is going to go inside your luggage and try to identify the rightful owner of that luggage and then they will notify you."
Carol did that, but not the next thing.

  • Make sure the airline tag on your luggage is for the correct destination before it's sent off. 
  • Report a missing bag before you leave the airport. If the bag is deemed lost, there's often a deadline to file a claim. At United, it's 45 days.
  • If your trip involved more than one carrier, it's the final carrier that's usually responsible for the loss.
  • Know the airlines won't reimburse you for everything. What's exempt, though, is in the fine print, which consumers don't often read.  

Local travel attorney Alexander Anolik says, "If you knew that the carriers do not cover computers, cameras, electronics, heirlooms, coins, stuff that you need for work that are samples, almost anything except the dirty underwear, you wouldn't be checking it."

Airlines will reimburse you up to $2,500  for domestic flights. Bottom line, if you don't want to lose it, carry it on the plane.

Finally, to cover your bases, check your homeowners policy or consider travel insurance for additional coverage.

As for Carol, one month after her luggage was lost, she got a $1,500 check from United to cover the loss. A day later, her bag was found. True to the airline’s word, she got to keep both.

(Copyright 2002 KRON 4. All Rights Reserved.)

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