Searching for lost luggage

November 05, 2006|By McClatchy-Tribune

About how many pieces of luggage will be lost or stolen on commercial airline flights this year? Would you believe 30 million? So says SITA, a research firm that tracks baggage information for airlines and passengers in 220 countries.

So what to do if one (or more) of the wayward bags is yours? Attorney Janet Rubel, author of 101+ Complaint Letters that Get Results, advises that you should "not leave the airport without filing a lost/stolen luggage claim with your airline. Most luggage is really just misplaced - it will likely get to you within 48 hours if you're traveling domestically."

If your luggage is not found, you must file a written claim for damages. If you are traveling within the United States, the Department of Transportation has specified that airlines are liable for up to $2,800 per passenger for lost luggage. On international flights, it's a bit more complicated - you're entitled to up to 1,000 "Special Drawing Rights," an international currency equivalent set by the International Monetary Fund. Visit for details.

To file your claim, you'll probably have to create an itemized list of what was in your luggage. Don't wait to do this until after your luggage is gone - Rubel suggests keeping an inventory of whatever you pack (be sure to keep it separate from the luggage itself). It helps to have photos and receipts for everything. And don't forget to claim the cost of the suitcase itself.

The Travel Insider, a travel tips Web site, warns that airlines will reimburse you for only the depreciated value of your possessions. So if you bought a suit for $500 three years ago, the airline will probably not compensate you for the full $500. But you might be able to claim the shortfall on your homeowners or renters insurance policy.

If you dislike the treatment you get from your airline, file a complaint with the Department of Transportation: DOT Aviation Consumer Protection, 400 Seventh St., SW, Suite 4107, Washington, D.C. 20590.

Rubel adds that "if the Transportation Security Administration damages your suitcase and stuff is lost, they will quietly reimburse you."

For details, visit

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