Ask a Travel Expert: How to Deal with Lost Luggage

By Allie E. Almario

Ask A Travel Expert: How to Deal with Lost Luggage

If the airlines lose your luggage, the best-case scenario is that the airlines will eventually locate it and deliver it to you within a few days.  We understand it’s a terrible inconvenience, so stay patient. Here are some helpful tips to lessen the stress:


Before you leave for your trip:

Pack essentials in your carry-on including your travel documents, all prescribed medications, an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses, toiletries (in TSA-approved sizes), a set of clothes and underwear and for women, pantiliners, and, of course, a phone charger.

Another helpful tip: if you are traveling with a partner, pack some of each other’s clothes. That way if only one of your suitcases is lost, then the other person will at least have some of your necessities.

Make sure your suitcase is tagged with your name and contact info – both on the outside with a name tag and your phone number / email address, as well as extra ID inside the suitcase, in case the name tag is ripped off.

If possible, take a picture of your suitcase, or at least remember the brand, size, and color, along with any other identifying markers (i.e. red ribbon tied to a handle or fun souvenir destination stickers). This tip is also helpful if your suitcase is damaged by the airlines.


After checking into your flights:

Always keep your boarding pass and baggage stickers (usually found on the back of your boarding pass). You will need both when filing your luggage claim with the airlines at the luggage counter when you discover it is missing or damaged.


If your luggage doesn’t arrive:

Once it’s clear that your luggage didn’t arrive at your destination, immediately head to your airline counter located near the baggage carousel. Patience is key, as lines may be long and there may be difficulty with language barriers.

Fill out a lost luggage claim and keep a copy, noting the reference, claim or file locator number. Make sure you leave behind your own contact phone number or the name and address of the hotel you will be staying in for the next few days. You will find hotel information in your final itinerary.  The airline is responsible for making sure your luggage gets to you through a delivery service.  In most cases, the bag is usually re-routed and forwarded on to you within a few days.

Ask if there is a local airline number you can call to follow up at the airport.  Some airlines offer a tracking service online – see below.


Exiting the airport:

Upon exiting the airport, notify your local guide about the problem and ask for assistance is tracking the luggage over the next day or so. S/he will be invaluable in communicating in the local language and are often familiar with airport staff.

If you are in immediate need of essentials, your guide can help you purchase some.

Keep ALL receipts of purchases in case you need to file a travel insurance claim or lost luggage claim with the airline.


If your services do not include a local guide upon arrival, your hotel may have concierge staff who can assist you.

Ask the hotel for an amenities kit which may include basic toiletries to tide you over for a day or two.

Airlines can typically track your suitcase in the system and can advise you with an estimate of its arrival. Some even will provide a website with status updates.

In many cases, if you paid a luggage fee for checked luggage, you may be entitled to a refund from the airline.


Helpful airline websites for lost / delayed luggage:

American Airlines:

Delta Airlines:

Copa Airlines:



Jet Blue:,Kb=askBlue,case=obj(2206)

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