Lost luggage: What happens if your baggage doesn’t arrive when you do?

Lost luggage: What happens if your baggage doesn’t arrive when you do?

Published on 28th January, 2022 at 12:18 pm

You’ve finally stepped off the plane, made it through the chaotic customs queue, done yet another COVID-19 test, and now all that’s standing between you and your longed-for holiday is the baggage carousel… which keeps going round and round, your suitcase nowhere in sight. As panic starts rising in your throat, you realise all you have in your hand luggage is half a bottle of hand sanitiser and a frayed charger cable – your entire holiday is crammed into your luggage. What to do?

While losing your luggage is a gigantic pain, it’s not necessarily a disaster of holiday-destroying proportions. Since baggage is handled by so many people during a trip, airlines tend to accept limited responsibility, but they are mandated by the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions (international treaties that establish the limits of carrier liability for international carriage of passengers), which indicate that passengers should be compensated for displaced and lost luggage.

Airports and airlines deal with thousands of bags every day, and sometimes one gets loaded on the wrong cart or plane, or its label gets damaged. Here’s how to deal if you’re disembarking in Cape Town but your bag is detouring to Windhoek.

Step #1: Let the airline know

Go to the lost baggage or check-in counter as soon as possible and report your missing bags, before leaving the airport. You know that sticker on your boarding pass or the back of your passport? It carries all your luggage information and is crucial for its recovery. Once you’ve spoken to an airline agent, they will get the ball rolling to find your missing bag.

“Emirates carries out two separate tracing processes to locate delayed baggage,” says a spokesperson for the airline. “Primary tracing takes place during the first seven days, and includes liaison with all stations involved in the journey and conduct of physical checks, including the ramp and store areas, and coordination with the security and lost-and-found team.”

Reality Access for Fedhealth members get complimentary international travel insurance for up to 45 days, valued at R5 million. Learn more about how to top up your benefit to cover lost luggage, valued at R15 000, here. In the event of luggage loss, a written police or airline report must be obtained immediately.

Step #2: Fill in a missing luggage form

“If nothing turns up after seven days, it’s time for the secondary tracing,” the spokesperson continues. “This involves liaising with all airports and airlines for a thorough check, beginning once a passenger completes a baggage inventory form and submits this with supporting documents. The secondary check is completed within 10 working days.”

When you complete the form, include as much detail as possible, including the size, colour and shape of your luggage, and any identifying features, such as labels, tags or stickers, and that squeaky left wheel. Once they trace your bag, the airline will contact you and arrange for delivery or pick-up.

Planning a trip abroad post-COVID-19? Accidents and illness do happen, so make sure you’re covered. Here’s what happens if you get sick aboard.

Step #3: Go shopping

Emirates provides interim relief to passengers with lost luggage to cover the cost of essentials, such as toiletries, a phone charger and sleepwear – just make sure to keep all your original receipts so you can file a claim. If it turns out your luggage is lost to the world, Emirates provides compensation.

When you receive your bag, check it immediately for any damage or missing items, and report it to the airline for damage compensation.

Should you take out luggage insurance?

“It’s advisable to have the necessary insurance cover when travelling, especially during these unprecedented times,” says Emirates. “Including lost baggage will further safeguard you throughout your journey.”

And while you’re waiting for your bag, just be thankful it’s only missing – in 2010, a waste pipe burst at London’s Heathrow Airport, drenching 240 bags in raw sewage. Suddenly a slight delay doesn’t seem so bad, after all…

Be sure to ask these questions about your travel insurance before embarking on your trip.

How to help ensure your bag doesn’t go missing

  • Tag your bag inside and out (feel free to skip the address and only supply your name and email or phone number).
  • Double-check all routing information when you check in, especially if you have a connecting flight.
  • Photograph the contents of your packed bag, to help in case of missing items.
  • Arrive in time and don’t wait until the last minute to check your bags in.
  • Make your bag stand out from a sea of black and navy suitcases with colourful tags, stickers or a ribbon wrapped around a handle.

10 Things to always pack in your hand luggage

Survive the luggage drought with these essentials:

  1. Travel documents, ID and money
  2. Essential medications and their prescriptions
  3. Phone charger, power bank and travel adapter
  4. Valuables such as a camera, laptop or jewellery
  5. A change of underwear
  6. A toothbrush, toothpaste and cleansing wipes
  7. Snacks, like a protein bar
  8. Your house and car keys
  9. Something warm like a long-sleeved top
  10. A pen

The journey of a checked-in bag

You load your bag on the conveyer belt at check-in and watch as it goes off – what happens next?

  • The bag is weighed and labelled by the check-in staff.
  • It goes to the sorting office, where people or robots sort them into the right plane.
  • Bags are X-rayed or CT-scanned for security.
  • If anything suspicious is detected, bags are inspected by hand.
  • Once cleared, your bag is loaded on a cart and taken to the plane by airport ramp agents.
  • After landing, bags are unloaded and taken to the terminal.
  • The bags are loaded on the baggage reclaim conveyor belts. For connecting flights, bags are taken to the next plane.

Before you board a plane, make sure you do so with peace of mind. As a Reality Access for Fedhealth member, you have complimentary International Travel Insurance for claims of up to R5 million. Find out more about top-up cover and benefits offered, like luggage cover, here.

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