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Lost Bags and How to Recover Them

Updated on April 10, 2011

A short guide on reclaiming your lost luggage

Some of you know this sinking feeling all too well. Your flight has landed. It's been a long trip and there were possible delays. All you want to do is get to your destination.

You've watched the baggage carousel go round and round and still don't see your bag. You decide to apply the logic of "I checked in real early so my bag was at the back of the hold and it will be unloaded last". You step back because you can see all the people who boarded last are getting theirs successfully so you must be right.

Only a few people left now so yours must be on its way. You notice some of them are anxious but are confident yours will arrive soon.

30 minutes later. The carousel has been switched off and you finally give up. What do you do now?

1. There is no time like the present. You are physically at the airport and in a position to make an immediate enquiry in person.

2. Whatever you do, don't loose the baggage receipt which you were given when checking in.

3. The ground staff will help you if you help them. No matter how long the form is, compare not filling it out to the value of your bags and contents.

4. Keep calm. Be businesslike in your dealings with staff and make sure they understand you will claim for loss if your bags not found within a reasonable time period.

5. Most important, make sure they have your legible contact details. If possible provide the details of a friend or relative who can be contacted in case the airline can't reach you.

TIPS to make reclaiming your bags easier:

1. Have a look at the baggage identification form on this page. Use it before travel to make sure you have enough information to give the airline.

2. Write your name and contact details while travelling on your luggage label and also put one inside the bag. Should the outer label become detached the airline will be able to confirm ownership once they open it.

3. Make a list of contents and value. Put one inside the bag that will travel in the hold and keep a copy in your purse.

4. Make your bag stand out - tie a colorful ribbon around it so that another passenger won't inadvertently mistake it for theirs.

5. Do the right thing: if you find the bag does not belong to you - take it back to the airlines immediately. Chances are the person who has your bag will do the same and the problem is quickly resolved:)

Interesting facts: more than 95% of bags arrive with the passengers at their final destination. The 5% that don't are usually recovered within 48 hours and delivered to your doorstep. Airlines are using a very good tracking system that keeps looking for your luggage by following its electronic progress.

Happy travelling!

Identifying your luggage

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Use this guide to give a detailed description of your bags
Use this guide to give a detailed description of your bags
Use this guide to give a detailed description of your bags | Source

Travel Tip Books

Frequent traveler? These books are highly recommended to make your trip easy and enjoyable.

A different approach is to travel with hand luggage where possible. I enjoyed "The Packing Book: Secrets of the Carry-on Traveler" by Judith Gilford. Available at Amazon

For South Africans, do try the Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips by Tom Hall.   Available at


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      peteresther 6 years ago

      A very useful article indeed. Thank you.