It is the holiday season again and it is time to travel! Travelling is always fun but it can be stressful at the same time - especially when airlines lose or damage our baggage.
I had a bad experience when flying a domestic flight from Cusco to Lima and ended up stranded without my luggage for over 36 hours.
I wouldn't have thought it would happen to me on a one hour domestic flight (who ever thinks bad things would happen to them!) but it did, and you could safely say that incident soiled my vacation - literally, especially when I didn't packed a set of clean underwear with me!
So learning from my experience, here's TEN quick tips to protect yourself when dealing with flight baggage delays or damages.
1. Buy Travel Insurance
Don't skip your travel insurance!
Buying travel insurance is the best form of protection and pays (literally) when you are faced with inconveniences (ie. stranded without clean underwear) caused by baggage delays or damages.
2. Pack a Fresh Set of Clothes in Your Carry-On
Mandatory: a fresh set of undies. Period.
3. Strategize When Checking-in Your Baggage
Read the terms and conditions of your travel insurance carefully.
Does it only cover one piece of baggage per insured person? - If so, be sure to tag each baggage under each person in your travelling party, individually. Some airlines allow 2 pieces of baggage per passenger and the check-in agent might take the convenient route by tagging both baggage under the same passenger - when both baggage are delayed/damaged, you may end up just being able to claim for one!
Is your baggage already worn and damaged when checking-in? Airlines may ask you to sign the form that excludes them liability from your damaged baggage. Be sure to write down the actual description of the damage on the same form before signing it. If there is additional damage on the baggage during the transit, you can still hold the airline liable.
4. Save The Baggage Receipts
This is so important that it has a point on its own.
These baggage receipts are vital when it comes to communicating with the airline on your lost baggage status. You may reference your boarding pass of course, but it does not contain the vital baggage tag numbers.
The baggage tag numbers come in handy for me personally, when email correspondence on baggage status updates from the airline company are filled with airline lingo and I could reference the baggage tag numbers to match and decipher the otherwise incomprehensible industry jargon.
The baggage receipts also serve as physical evidence which may be matched with the identified baggage tag numbers used in official documentation from the airline company for making insurance claims.
So put those baggage receipts under lock and key!
5. Safeguard Your Flight Documentation
This would include boarding passes and flight booking itineraries.
Boarding passes prove that you had been onboard the flight.
Flight booking itineraries are used to calculate the duration of delay from the time you were supposed to receive your luggage (flight arrival time).
6. Check Your Baggage Condition After Arrival
Your mind will probably be pre-occupied on how to get from the airport to the city when you are collecting your checked baggage at the baggage carousel but take a moment to scan your baggage thoroughly as you pick it up.
Is anything broken? Is everything intact?
If anything is amiss with your baggage, speak immediately with the airline representative who should be stationed close to the baggage claim area before leaving the airport. If you do not raise the issue now, it might be a futile effort to seek restitution from the airline or insurance company later.
7. Ask for the Airline Representative's Name and Contact
When faced with a baggage delay or damage, don't settle for toll-free call centre numbers or generic customer support email addresses. Be sure to get hold of the direct contact of an airline representative whom you can seek follow-up queries with.
8. Take Pictures of Damaged Baggage
A picture says a thousand words - keep them for your own reference and the airline and insurance company later on.
Also on photo-taking, take photos of boarding passes or luggage tag receipts that the airline staff should take away from you, for the same reason.
9. Keep A Log of Communication with Airline Company
Most insurance companies will not reimburse you just because you say so.
Keep a paper trail of the communication you have had with the airline company.
Quoting the baggage tag numbers (see No. 4) in email conversations helps to substantiate your claims.
10. Arrange with Your Hotel/Accommodation on Baggage Delivery
Inform the hotel staff that you are expecting delivery of your delayed baggage and remember to ask them to keep the delivery note for you! This would prove the time of delivery of your baggage to you, which will be important to calculate the duration of the baggage delay.
So here are my 10 tips for dealing with baggage issues. No one plans for problems to happen during their travels but how we prepare for the issues before they arise and manage the issues as they come can make our trip more smoother and enjoyable.
I wish you a very happy travelling season!
On a side note, you would like to view the full video of my 1 hour flight accompanied by a 36 hour baggage delay experience, please see below:
(Keeping things PG-rated, I have only shown the scenic and pleasant flight experience - minus the gore, massacre, and bloodbath post-landing)