What to do if Your Luggage is Delayed or Damaged

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One of the worst things that can happen to you when travelling is if your luggage is delayed, damaged, or lost. If it’s at the start or the middle of your trip, it’s a major inconvenience. If it happens when you return home, it’s arguably more annoying since you end your travels on a down note.

What complicates things is the fact that to make any kind of claim (from the airline or your insurance provider), you need to first meet certain conditions. Once you qualify for those conditions, you need to proceed in a certain way to ensure that you get the compensation that’s owed to you. Don’t worry, the following is what you need to make your claim.

What to do if Your Luggage is Delayed or Damaged

Make sure you’re insured

Although airlines will reimburse you for any delayed or damaged baggage, it can be a real pain. Airlines tend to have a low cap to what they’ll reimburse you for and it’ll also limit what you can purchase as necessities while you wait for your luggage to arrive.

I personally recommend getting baggage insurance since it’s not very expensive and you tend to be entitled to more things with fewer conditions. Understand that your work travel insurance will most likely not cover your luggage, so don’t assume you’re already insured. Employee policies usually only cover travel medical insurance. That being said, if you have a travel rewards credit card, baggage insurance is almost always included.

To be clear, you should always travel with insurance. Here’s a detailed breakdown I wrote about the basics of travel insurance.

What to do when your bags are lost

So you’ve been waiting for your luggage for quite some time and it appears that all the bags have been unloaded. Panic may start to set in, but it’s better to be calm about things so you don’t stress yourself out.

The first thing to do is to report your lost luggage to the representative of the airline with which your flight ends. You’ll want to do this in the baggage area which is obvious for travellers who have lost their luggage. Now if your bag did arrive, check it before you depart the luggage collection area to make sure there’s no damage. Making a claim later will be near impossible unless you immediately return to the airport.

The good thing is that luggage is easily tracked. You know that sticker they put on your ticket at your departing city? That tag corresponds to your luggage so the airlines should be able to tell where your luggage is pretty quickly.

While speaking to the airline representative, make sure you get a reference number. You’ll also want to get in writing that you’re authorized to make interim expenses. Keep all your receipts moving forward including your boarding pass and baggage tags.

Making your insurance claims

Let’s assume that you do have a separate baggage insurance policy. You’ll want to contact them right away after you have your reference number from the airline. Insurance companies usually have a set rule of when you can make a claim e.g. after a delay of four hours so you need to read your policy details.

It’s possible your airline will deny you any interim expenses, so you don’t have to have a reference number. But, your insurance provider will want some kind of proof that the airline has denied you a monetary settlement. Assuming your airline does reimburse you, you must make a claim with them first before submitting any additional receipts to your insurance provider.

The good thing with insurance is that they’re much more open about the things you can claim. You’ll most likely get a higher fixed amount for expenses, but remember to hang onto all your receipts any supporting documents.

If your baggage was just damaged, your airline will either send it for repairs or refer you to a luggage supplier where you can pick a new piece of luggage.

Final word

If your luggage is lost for more than five days, most airlines will require you to fill out additional paperwork. At this time, assume you may not get it back for the remainder of your trip and plan accordingly. Read your insurance policy details, keep all your receipts, and hopefully you shouldn’t have many issues making a claim.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Vito on November 2, 2017 at 11:53 PM

    Hey Barry,

    Do you have a travel preference credit card? If I recall correctly you have/like using the Amex Gold card and is still a lf preference of choice for most website reviews but wondering if that is still the case considering the impending issue with Aeroplan points occurring in 2020 which is not that far away.

    Wondering your thoughts if any? Nice article!

    • Barry Choi on November 3, 2017 at 12:55 AM

      I tend to use my Amex card the most since I can transfer my Membership Rewards to various airlines.

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