How to prepare and what to do if an airline misplaces your luggage

February 3, 2022

How to prepare and what to do if an airline misplaces your luggage

It’s not the end of the world but in the moment you find out your luggage didn’t make the same trip that you did it really does feel like it. Delayed or lost luggage is one of the biggest risks when checking luggage and when it does happen it almost always happens on the most inconvenient trip possible. That’s what happened to me anyway.

In January 2022 I went on a girls trip to Miami where we were departing on a cruise to the Bahamas and Dominican Republic. My suitcase was packed full of meticulously chosen outfits (no surprise there right?) for all the coordinated themed nights out and endless photo opportunities. It also contained all of my makeup, toiletries and hair accessories that usually gets packed into my carry on but didn’t because my hand luggage was home to all of the camera equipment that Michael is usually responsible for when we travel.

Long story short my friend and I had a rough time en route to Miami from Vancouver and with multiple delays and cancellations we ended up on 3 flights, none of which were on our original itinerary, with different airlines. With changes happening whilst we were still in the air we found ourselves running (à la Home Alone) through Vancouver, Toronto and Chicago airports with mere minutes to make the journeys, we were literally the last ones onto the plane in Chicago. So were we surprised our luggage got left behind in Toronto? Not really, if we didn’t know where we were going how could the employees responsible for directing our luggage know?

So after a bad start to our trip, a series of Instagram stories that should have lead to signing a deal on our own reality tv show, a couple of mental breakdowns, a wild goose chase and a happy dance that could have gone viral on TikTok I have written a blog post that will help you navigate your way through these treacherous waters if an airline misplaces or loses your luggage too.

The unaccounted issue with lost luggage for people of colour

Before I cover what to pack in your carry-on in case your luggage gets misplaced, what to do if it does, how to file it as missing, how to track it, what essentials to buy and how to claim back the money it cost to buy these essentials I need to talk about how delayed or lost luggage highlights one of the ways inequality is present in travel and how it can take its toll on our mental health. 

In this world functioning on systemic racism, if you are not a person of colour it can be easy for you to overlook and misunderstand the specific frustrations over the misplacement or loss of their luggage of someone who is.

Let’s for a moment take a look at a hotel bathroom. It has toiletries, towels and hairdryer right? So something as basic as washing my hair after a long day of travelling shouldn’t be a problem. Wrong. 

People with curly hair textures cannot use hair products with sulphates and silicones, ingredients found in almost all non-specific textured hair products including hotel toiletries – To learn more about why our hair products shouldn’t contain silicones or sulphates take a look at my blog post, Sustainable styling with Only Curls. We can’t use the hotel’s average terrycloth towel to wrap our hair in either without the risk of damage to our curls as they absorb too much moisture and mess up the curl pattern. We also don’t apply direct heat to our curls as that too can damage our curl patterns so if we use a hair dryer it requires a diffuser, an attachment that is rarely sold with hairdryers and therefore next to never found accompanying one with a hair dryer in a hotel bathroom – in all of my travels, I’ve only seen one in a hotel bathroom – you can almost always find a concentrator attachment for sleek hairstyling though. Even after all of that, without the right brushes, creams, custards, gels and mousse our textured hair cannot be styled into anything but a hot mess.

So we have to buy it all and you can bet those products are going to be more expensive than those created for people who don’t have textured hair. The ones whose shelves are fully stocked and easy to find. The curly hair products were located 5 aisles away from the “mainstream” hair products and the selection was a quarter of the size at best.

My Target bill was x5 that of my friend’s whose only hair product consisted of dry shampoo. A product that has harmful ingredients to textured hair and leaves white residue on dark hair colours that can’t be brushed away without causing frizz.

Losing our luggage with all of our haircare that exceeds liquid restrictions will take more planning and money to replace than the white person with smooth hair whom hotels are catering for. Next time you stay in a hotel, consider questioning their products and who they serve.

Postcards from Hawaii Travel Lifestyle Blog Gabriella Wisdom How to prepare and what to do if an airline misplaces your luggage

What to pack in your carry-on luggage in case your luggage gets delayed or relocated

This checklist is for some of the items that you might not need straight away and therefore won’t think about but will be annoying and/or tedious to replace.

For a more detailed list of what to pack into your hand luggage take a look at my blog post, What’s in my travel bag.

I also strongly advise that you keep anything of particular financial or sentimental value on your person to prevent heartbreak should your luggage get delayed or lost.

I always recommend travelling in something comfortable and I’m really glad I wore what I did: sweatpants, a vest, hoody and sneakers/trainers as it meant I had something fairly versatile for wet or dry weather. Read more about the kind of outfits I travel in here. The photos make me laugh now and the reminder of pre-mask days in an airport give me anxiety but the premise of comfies has stayed the same.

Toiletries

  • Medication

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste

  • Menstrual cup – they’re expensive and it’s surprising how quickly the cost of toiletries add up

  • Skincare products

  • Makeup remover – if you travel wearing makeup then you’ll want to be able to take it off without damaging your skin

  • Makeup – if you usually wear it

  • Any haircare that is necessary for your hair texture

Clothing 

  • Underwear

  • Swimwear – mens swimwear can double up as shorts, women’s can double up as a top or bra

  • A pair of shorts

  • A dress

  • 1-2 t-shirts

Accessories 

  • Sunglasses

  • Hair tie – possibly a hat if where you’re going is very hot or cold

  • Canvas bag – a shopping bag/beach bag/purse

What to do when the airline misplaces/loses your luggage

When you’re tired from travelling, possibly hungry and stressed from finding out your luggage didn’t arrive when you did, it can be really hard to think about your next actions. The likelihood is that you will be pining for the missing items but not be able to think about what to do about it. So here are the steps to take and what you need to make a claim if an airline does misplace or lose your luggage or if its arrival is delayed.

What you need to make a lost luggage claim

  • Passport.

  • Boarding passes.

  • Luggage receipt (it’s the sticky label that matches the info on the luggage tag that the airline gives you when you check your luggage).

  • Personal phone number and email address.

  • Address and phone number of the place you are staying on your trip.

  • Booking confirmation emails.

1. File a report at the airport with the airline you travelled with.

If your bag(s) haven’t appeared on the belt after everyone else has picked theirs up and left then the likelihood is it didn’t make it onto your flight with you. It’s not the only reason, others could be that it might have been held back for inspection, removed from the belt to make room for new luggage coming down (in which case it’s probably somewhere in a stack next to the belt) or unfortunately someone may have taken it by mistake (I’m guilty of doing this – if you do this then you must call the airport and/or airline so they can inform the rightful owner then return it to the airport as soon as possible).

If you can’t see it, go to the airline’s desk at baggage claim and tell them you can’t find your luggage. You will need your boarding pass and the sticky luggage receipt that matches the luggage tag the airline put on your suitcase at check-in. It is almost always stuck to the back of your printed boarding pass.

If you were connecting then the rule of thumb is that the last airline you flew with is the one who is responsible for your luggage. Despite Air Canada losing our luggage between their own flights it was American Airlines – who we flew our last connection with – that was responsible for our missing luggage report and then later our reimbursement claim.

You want to provide them with as many ways to contact you as possible: phone number, email address, your address and the address and phone number of where you’re staying.

It’s very important that you don’t lose the form you receive from them. You will need it to track and retrieve your luggage and it has the information you need to make your financial claim for anything you had to buy in the time you were without it.

2. Go shopping for your essentials. 

Unfortunately no one can guarantee when your luggage will be located and flown to where you’ve travelled to. If you are lucky it will be flown in the next day but it cannot be promised so unless your plans the next day are pressing I strongly suggest you try to sleep or nap and eat something to re-energise then hit the shops. 

I have provided you with an essentials shopping list below in the unlikely event that your luggage goes missing and you don’t have anything you need. Those items will tide you over for the first couple of days whilst you wait for your luggage to be recovered and returned to you.

3. Check the tracking number

Use the tracking number and log in link provided on your form to track the progress of your luggage and if that doesn’t work call the airlines luggage handling number*.

I know a lot of blog posts and articles tell you to be patient once you file your claim but if something feels wrong then don’t be afraid to use your intuition. Here’s my personal experience and why it helps to not just sit back and wait.

When we made our claim there was a very strange back and forth between the last airline we flew with and the airline who misplaced our luggage, we were told contradicting things by each airlines and it left us unsettled. When the log-in information provided on our forms wasn’t working and the airline we were told to make our claim with couldn’t tell us if our luggage was with them we knew something was wrong so I contacted the airline who we originally flew with. 

We eventually found out that the original airline had flown our luggage out to Miami and that it was out for delivery. Confused about why the airline who had filed the report said very specifically to us that we have to pick up our luggage from the airport when it arrives I still felt something wasn’t adding up. 

It was 2am in Miami when I remembered my tracking device in my suitcase (see below under “the most important thing to put in all of your luggage is a tracking device” for more details) and used it to locate my suitcase in Miami International Airport from my hotel bed. Contrary to the original airline’s representative who did fly our bags out it was not in fact out for delivery but instead like the airline we made the claim with but didn’t locate our bags said, it was waiting to be picked up from them at the airport in the baggage sorting office. 

Thank goodness for this tracking device though as neither airline actually told us it was ready to pick up and had we not tracked it and gone to the airport to ask if we could pick it up, we would have assumed it was out for delivery and therefore not have gotten it in time for our cruise.

With all of that said you must know that this won’t be the case every time. What happened to us was a series of very unfortunate events including a pilot who was late for work, one of the flights being accidentally fuelled for the wrong country, bad weather and being put on a flight with a different airline to the one we originally booked. So I do believe that you can still trust in your airline to retrieve your missing luggage without needing to follow up. 

*be assertive not aggressive – it’s not the representative’s fault.

4. Check your luggage throughly

Be sure to go through your luggage thoroughly to check that nothing is missing either from inspection or theft.

The most important thing to put in all of your luggage is a tracking device

The most important thing to pack to prepare for delayed, lost or misdirected luggage is a tracking device.

 

If it wasn’t for suddenly remembering at 2am on the morning of our cruise that Michael and I had put tile tracking devices in our suitcases for our move to Canada, then we would have had no choice but to trust one of the airlines when they said our suitcases were out for delivery. 

When I realised the tiles was still in there I was able to mark my suitcase as lost on the app which automatically uses bluetooth to ping a signal from nearby tile users to help locate my suitcase. 

“Tile has sold more than 35 million devices, not including products from more than 30 partners with its technology built-in, which make up its network that spans 195 countries.” – Tod Haselton for CNBC.

With millions of tile users around the world it meant that the chances of someone’s app picking up the location of my suitcase were pretty high and it was found immediately near the American Airlines luggage belt. Aside from being totally confused by how Air Canada could have told us it was out for delivery we were utterly elated to find out it was at the airport and totally accessible and if mine was there then my friends would be too.

Using the map within the tile app we piled into an Uber at 6am on a mere 3 hours of broken sleep and walked to the spot the luggage was last located. With the confirmation via the app we went to the American Airlines arrivals luggage desk and were directed to the Baggage Sorting Office where our suitcases were sitting waiting for us!

Without the tile app in my suitcase we would have had to take the airline’s word for the whereabouts of our luggage which as it turns out was incorrect and never would have gotten it for our cruise later that day. It saved the day for us and is amongst the best £19.99 ($24.99) I’ve spent.

What to buy if your luggage is lost or delayed

In the event that your luggage gets lost or delayed when you reach your travel destination and haven’t packed anything useful for the first few days then it’s likely that you will be stressed and overtired therefore won’t be thinking clearly enough to form your shopping list of immediate essentials so I’ve made one for you. Tweak it based on your travel destination, the season and personal needs.

You may also find it useful to know some key drug stores to shop to keep the cost down in the following countries: 

UK: Boots and Superdrug

EU: Sephora and Douglas

AUS: Priceline Pharmacy

NZ: Life Pharmacy

US: CVS and Walgreens

CA: Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs

You MUST collect receipts for every purchase you make to be able to file for reimbursement.

Toiletries 

Though I usually advise against buying minis as they create more single-use waste, I do recommend buying small products if your luggage is delayed as you may find it difficult to pack extra items into your suitcase when you do get it back. 

I also recommend purchasing versatile products such as palettes or gift sets so you can keep the cost down by getting multiple products in one.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Sunscreen

  • Makeup palette – Charlotte Tilbury’s Instant Look in a Palettes are perfect for this occasion

  • Skincare travel sets

  • Razor – I do want to note that you can travel with electric razors in your carry-on luggage

  • Haircare

Clothing 

  • Swimwear

  • Activewear

  • Underwear

  • Denim shorts

  • X2 t-shirts

  • Dress

  • Evening wear

  • Alternative footwear

Accessories 

  • Sunglasses

  • Hat

Postcards from Hawaii Travel Lifestyle Blog Gabriella Wisdom How to prepare and what to do if an airline misplaces your luggage

How to make your reimbursement claim with the airline who misplaced/lost your luggage 

To make your reimbursement claim for the money spent on the essential items you had to buy whilst you waited for your luggage you will need the following: 

  • Passport.

  • Boarding passes.

  • Luggage receipt (it’s the sticky label that matches the info on the luggage tag that the airline gives you when you check your luggage).

  • Personal phone number and email address.

  • Address and phone number of the place you are staying on your trip.

  • Booking confirmation emails.

  • Receipts for all purchases, you must get receipts!

  • The form the airline will give you with details of your misplaced luggage claim.

  1. Use the website link provided to bring up the log in page to track your claim.

  2. Enter the passenger information needed that will be on your claim form, boarding pass, booking confirmation and luggage receipt.

  3. Take photos of all of your receipts, passport, boarding pass and the original form from the claim you made.

  4. Take screenshots of your flight confirmation emails if there were any changes made.

  5. Upload all of the images when asked.

  6. Take a screenshot of your reimbursement claim for good measure then submit it.

  7. Wait for a response, follow up when necessary.

.

This blog post offers advise for luggage that is delayed – in the event of indefinitely lost luggage you will need to contact your insurance company and airline for compensation for the items lost. On that note, always get travel insurance! 

If you have tips for covering your butt in the case of delayed luggage that myself or other readers will find helpful, please leave them in the comments and if you found this useful then I’d love to hear that in a comment too!

Do more on & for the planet, Gabriella 

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As an Amazon affiliate I may earn from any qualifying purchases.

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