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What travelers must know as airlines take care of lost, delayed bags

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Air travel has been rocky this summer — and baggage problems factor amongst many other issues for travelers like flight cancellations and delays.

Nearly 220,000 bags were “mishandled” by U.S. airlines in April 2022, meaning they were lost, damaged, delayed or stolen, in line with essentially the most recent data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The variety of mishandled bags in April was greater than double the roughly 94,000 cases of mishandled luggage in April 2021, though barely lower than the tally in March 2022 and the extent in April 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, in line with department data.

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What do those numbers seem like for travelers? Consider this: Last week, Delta Air Lines flew a plane stuffed with 1,000 pieces of stranded luggage — and nil passengers — from London’s Heathrow Airport to Detroit to expedite movement of delayed bags.

Why airlines are struggling to administer baggage

Airlines have contended with a shortage of bags handlers, pilots and other staff as travel demand has ramped up, after having pared back on the onset of the pandemic. Greater than 2.4 million Americans passed through airport security on Sunday, a rise of 10% from a 12 months ago and greater than triple the identical day in 2020, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

While a lost bag or a delay in accessing your belongings can sour an otherwise amazing trip, there is a silver lining: Travelers can, in lots of circumstances, get financial compensation from airlines when their bags go missing. There are also steps to take before flying to make the method easier.

“Passengers do have recourse,” said Sara Rathner, a travel expert at NerdWallet.

Here’s what to know in case your checked luggage goes MIA or comes back with just a few dents.

Airlines must compensate passengers for lost bags

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Per U.S. regulations, airlines must compensate passengers for lost, delayed or damaged luggage, as much as a limit.

“The financial compensation is useful, because that is not money you’d have spent ordinarily,” Rathner said.

Policies can vary from carrier to carrier. For instance, airlines have different time standards for when a bag is deemed “lost”; most declare a bag lost after five to 14 days, in line with the Transportation Department. Airlines may ask for receipts or other proof for items in your bag.

Airlines may exempt certain items from repayment, including money, electronics and fragile items.

Make the lost luggage desk your ‘first port of call’

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If the bags carrousel is empty and you have not reunited together with your bag, discuss with an airline worker before leaving the airport to file a baggage claim, in line with travel experts.

“For lost luggage, the primary port of call needs to be the airport’s lost luggage desk to report the matter,” said Aiden Freeborn, senior editor at travel site The Broke Backpacker.

Airlines are answerable for locating a checked bag that does not arrive where and when it should.

“In some cases, they could give you the option to locate where the item is and arrange for it to be forwarded,” Freeborn said. “Unfortunately, this will mean waiting just a few days, and having to return to the airport to gather it.”

Airlines vary when it comes to accepting liability and in turnaround times for claims, he added.

The identical advice applies to a delayed bag, a damaged bag or bag contents — file a report before leaving the airport. Relative to a damaged bag, the airline may give you the option to argue damage occurred after leaving the premises, experts said.

After departing the airport, travelers also needs to file a grievance with the Transportation Department, in line with Charlie Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, an advocacy group. The agency will forward your grievance to the airline, thereby helping put yours toward the highest of the queue, he said.

The right way to pack to scale back your odds of a baggage mishap

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There are things travelers can do before flying to scale back their possibilities or losing a bag — or decreasing any headaches which will result in the event that they do, in line with experts.

Perhaps essentially the most obvious — yet impactful — tip is to avoid checking a bag when possible.

“Without delay, in case you could all the time travel with a carry-on; that is my No. 1 rule for you,” Leocha said.

In fact, that is not all the time possible. If you’ll want to check a bag, consider booking a nonstop flight as an alternative of a multi-leg trip (again, if possible) to eliminate any baggage errors which will accompany switching planes. If a layover is mandatory, go for an extended one to make sure there’s enough time in your bags to transfer.

Don’t put anything precious, like jewelry or camera equipment, in a checked bag: Those are unlikely to be covered if lost. It is also higher to maintain trip necessities like certain clothing or medical prescriptions in your carry-on, if those being delayed or lost would affect your health or make it inconceivable to enjoy your trip.

“Travelers can be smart not to place all their eggs in a single basket — as an alternative it’s price spreading items out across bags,” Freeborn said in an email. “Personally I all the time take just a few days’ price of garments and underwear in my cabin bag just in case my luggage is lost.”

Experts also recommend taking photographs of what you pack (a straightforward task with cellphone cameras) and writing down the worth of anything for which you paid in money during a visit. These steps will assist in the event you’ll want to file a baggage claim and list your personal belongings and their cost to the airline, Leocha said.

Moreover, some travel insurance policies may cover costs related to lost, stolen, damaged or delayed luggage, experts said. Buying an insurance policy is probably not mandatory though; travel-oriented bank cards used to fund a visit may already carry certain protections related to luggage.   

Travelers can even consider shipping certain must-have items to a destination ahead of time — though it is going to almost definitely cost more cash and airlines won’t pay for it, Leocha said.

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