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Lost luggage

Lost or damaged baggage inconveniences thousands of holidaymakers each year. The last thing you need when you're jetting off for a relaxing break - or returning home after the holiday of a lifetime - is for your luggage to go missing. If you act fast, though, you may not have to wait too long to see your baggage returned. Indeed, the majority of items are reunited with their owners within 72 hours. To make sure you're prepared, here's what to do if your luggage is lost or damaged.

What if my luggage is lost?

As soon as you realise your luggage hasn't come through, you should notify your airline's help desk at the airport. The sooner you report lost baggage, the quicker the problem will be solved.

At the desk, you'll be asked to complete a property irregularity report. Once this is done, take a copy for yourself, along with the details of whoever you spoke to at the helpdesk. They should be able to track your bags using the barcodes attached to your passport and boarding pass. Remember to give them either your home address, or the address of wherever you're staying if you're about to start your holiday, so your luggage can be forwarded to you.

If the airline doesn’t find your luggage within 21 days, it will be officially considered lost, and you can make a claim through your travel insurance to be compensated for your missing belongings. This may involve producing a list of all lost items. Bear in mind you may not be offered the full value of your goods – this is why it’s so important to include lost luggage in your travel insurance policy.

What if my luggage is damaged?

Perhaps your luggage has turned up, but it was damaged in transit. Depending on the extent of the damage and the regulations imposed by your airline, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

As with lost goods, you'll need to fill out a property irregularity report at your airline's help desk. This will enable you to make a claim, and will provide you with a reference number you may need to quote at a later stage.

If the airline deems the damage to be everyday wear and tear - minor dents and scuffs - your claim may be denied. Bear in mind that if you are going to make a claim, this should be done in writing within seven days of receiving your luggage.

How you can keep your luggage safe

Being savvy with the way you pack your bags before a holiday could minimise the stress you experience in the event of lost or damaged luggage.

  • Pack any valuables, medication, travel documents, gadgets and a spare set of clothes in your carry-on bags. That way, should you be without your main luggage, you'll have the essentials to hand.
  • Write an itemised list of what’s inside your suitcase. If your bag ever goes astray, you’ll be able to recount to the airline what was inside. This could be key to getting the right level of compensation.
  • Attach a name label to both the outside and inside of your bag, along with a copy of your inventory in each checked bag. This will help the airline to locate you at any time during your holiday.
  • When you check in your luggage, make sure the tickets attached to each suitcase are for the right destination. Mistakes can happen, but double-checking your bags could prevent them from happening to you.
  • Hold on to the ticket stub handed to you by your airline. In the event of lost baggage, this will prove that luggage is yours and help your airline track down the bag.
  • Take out travel insurance that covers lost or damaged luggage. Discuss your needs with your provider and they should be able to arrange this for you.