You booked your flights, packed your bags and caught a plane for a west coast adventure — only to discover that your luggage is delayed or lost. What’s your first move?
Before you scream at the nearest airline employee, take a deep breath.
Isn’t it amazing that a journey that used to take days can now be accomplished in a matter of hours? Isn’t it miraculous that humans have figured out how to float a crowd of people and a hunk of metal in the sky? It’s a wonder that airlines still exist at all, considering how many industries are struggling to find employees and how little travel was allowed in 2020.
OK, now exhale. Let’s help you find your luggage.
1. Keep your luggage tag in a safe place
The moment you check your bag, put your luggage tag in a safe place: the back of your boarding pass, or the back of your phone if you’re going paperless. You’ll need that barcode to help the airline identify your bag.
WCT tip? Take a photo of the tag to be sure you always have a copy.
Before your trip, make sure you’ve attached baggage tags with your contact information (address and phone number) to your bag, and make notes to ensure you’ll be able to provide a detailed description of the bag and its contents.
2. Talk to airline staff
If you can’t find your bag on the baggage carousel, talk to an employee from your airline before you leave the airport. Your luggage may be in a different area, like oversized baggage, and airport staff can help you find it.
Still no sign of your suitcase? Complete a missing baggage report with the airline. If your luggage is damaged upon arrival, complete a baggage/property irregularity report.
Air Passenger Rights recommends using your phone to record any interactions with the airline. If you’re not able to find an agent or file a report, take a photo of the abandoned baggage agent desk.
3. When to demand compensation
If you’re not satisfied with the airline’s response to your lost or damaged luggage, you do have options. The 1999 Montreal Convention protects all airline passengers around the world, and details your airline’s obligations. Every airline also has its own compensation policies.
For all flights to, from and within Canada, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations from the Canadian Transportation Agency have been in effect since 2019. If your baggage has been lost, damaged or delayed, you can file a claim to request compensation — but you need to file within the correct time frame:
- Within seven days of receiving damaged baggage.
- Within 21 days of receiving delayed baggage.
- As soon as possible for baggage delayed for 21 days or more (considered lost).
The airline must compensate you for checked baggage fees, as well as the cost of lost or damaged contents (and the luggage bag itself). You may be entitled to up to $2,300 to replace items that are lost, damaged or delayed. Keep original, itemized receipts for all replacement items, and only send airlines copies of those receipts.
Airline passengers also have rights when flights are delayed or cancelled. The amount of compensation you receive depends on the length of your delay and also whether the disruption is within the airline’s control.
For example, for flights delays to, from and within Canada that are within the airline’s control (not weather delays), large airlines must pay:
- $400 if the passenger arrives three or more hours late, but less than six hours.
- $700 if the passenger arrives six or more hours late, but less than nine hours.
- $1,000 if the passenger arrives nine or more hours late.
You have one year to make a compensation claim from the date of the flight delay or cancellation.
If you have to wait overnight (and that wouldn’t have been necessary on your original flight), the airline must offer you free accommodation.
If you purchased travel insurance, you may be eligible for compensation from your insurance company as well.
Speak up, but stay calm
Even when you’re entitled to compensation, you’re not likely to receive cash unless you submit a claim. Speak up — in writing — and if you aren’t satisfied with the airline’s response you can follow up with legal action.
Just remember to treat all airline employees with respect. Lost luggage can be inconvenient and frustrating, but that’s no excuse to lose your cool.
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