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What to do if your baggage is lost or delayed


Don't panic. There are ways to get your baggage back – or be compensated for your loss.

Travelling right now is quite chaotic.

Flights are being cancelled due to staff shortages and complaints about lost luggage are on the rise.

It's a stressful situation, particularly if you're just starting your journey.

So what can you do if your bags don't make it on the plane with you?

File a report ASAP

If your bags aren't anywhere to be found when the carousel stops, promptly make your way to the baggage services counter for your airline.

This is typically located in the same area as baggage collection.

Here you'll be asked to file a Property Irregularity Report (PIR). This includes:

  • Details on what your luggage looks like – include any and all identifying markers
  • Your flight information – such as your origin airport, flight number and baggage tag numbers
  • Contact details – including where you're staying over the next few days

If time is tight, you can fill in your report online through your airline's baggage services portal.

Whatever the case, it's important to lodge your PIR as soon as you can so the hunt for your bags can begin. You'll also need a copy of this report if you wish to make a claim through your travel insurance.

After completing your PIR, you'll be given a reference number. This can be used to check up on the status of your delayed luggage.

If your luggage is found, the airline will contact you to arrange the delivery of your bags at its expense.

Something that may come as a relief is that, according to Qantas, most delayed bags are located and delivered within 48 hours.

We are seeing things improve. Our mishandled bag rate is back to less than 1 in 100. It's close to what it was pre-pandemic.”

Ask for compensation

You've lodged your report, which is great, but you're still stuck on holiday with no luggage. What next?

Ask the airline for an emergency pack or compensation to cover necessary expenses.

Emergency packs can come with the essentials such as toiletries and pyjamas.

If the airline can't provide this, it may offer to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing necessities such as toiletries, underwear, socks and spare clothes, until you are reunited with your belongings.

If it doesn't compensate you, or compensates you for less than the value of your items, travel insurance can help.

What happens if my baggage is lost for good?

Unfortunately, not all lost baggage is found. If the airline hasn't located your bag after 21 days, its status will change from "delayed" to "lost".

If this happens, the airline should compensate you for your loss.

The amount differs depending on whether you're travelling domestically or internationally:

  • Domestic travel: Up to $1,600 per passenger for checked luggage and $160 per passenger for carry-on. This is under the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959.
  • International travel: Up to $1,735 per person for checked and carry-on luggage (under the Montreal Convention of 1929) or $30 for every kilo of checked luggage or $600 for carry-on luggage. (These are approximate amounts only).

Travel insurance for lost and delayed baggage

Travel insurance can reimburse you for clothing and other necessary personal items – for example, toothbrushes – if your luggage gets delayed or lost.

In many cases, it needs to have been missing for at least 12 hours before you can start claiming and most will have a limit on how much you can claim – often up to around $1,500.

You will also need to get written confirmation from the airline that it has been lost or delayed.

Make sure you keep a hold of receipts so the insurer can fully reimburse you.

How to reduce the stress of lost luggage

  • Consider an airtag or tile tracker: While it won't stop your luggage getting lost, an airtag or tile tracker can help you locate your luggage faster if it goes astray. This can also give you piece of mind that it's safe and on its way back to you.
  • Pack your valuables in your carry-on: Prioritise your electronics and valuables for your carry-on. They're generally not covered by travel insurance if lost unless the airline specifically tells you that you have to check them in at the last minute.
  • Pack a spare outfit in your carry-on. This includes underwear and socks. That way you'll at least have something to wear while you wait for your delayed luggage to be returned to you.
  • Get travel insurance: Whether your luggage is delayed or well and truly lost, travel insurance can cover the costs of your luggage contents.
  • Make your bag distinguishable. To help baggage services find your luggage faster, make it stand out with stickers, ribbons or even a personalised suitcase cover.
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