What to do if the airline loses your luggage

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaSep 15, 2023 | 09:00

What to do if the airline loses your luggage

26 million pieces of luggage were lost, delayed or damaged in 2022. Photo: DailyO

Traveling with your luggage can be a hassle on its own. However, when you're traveling by flight and the airline loses your luggage, it can quickly turn into a nerve-wracking nightmare, especially if you're on vacation.

But don't worry; there are several steps you can take to ensure the safe return of your bag, and in the worst-case scenario, the airline may also provide compensation. Let's begin with the story of "The Plane That Landed Without Luggage."


The plane landed without luggage

  • A Swiss aircraft landed in Bilbao, Spain, on Saturday, September 9th. To everyone's surprise, it arrived without a single piece of luggage on board.
  • The 111 passengers had to wait for over two hours at the airport's baggage claim, but unfortunately, their luggage never arrived.
  • The pilot issued an apology for the delay but didn't offer any explanation for the situation or notify passengers that their luggage had been left behind.
Photo: A Swissair Airbus departs off Zurich airport/AP
  • Passengers further stated that upon reaching their destination, Swiss Air personnel didn't provide any information about the whereabouts of their luggage. Instead, they had to rely on Spanish airline Iberia staff to inform them that the flight had arrived without any checked bags.

Why did this happen? It was later discovered that the incident occurred due to a "lack of airport staff." According to Euronews, after waiting for one hour and sixteen minutes with no improvement in the situation, the decision was made to proceed with the flight to Bilbao without the passengers' luggage.

This decision was made due to operational requirements, as the aircraft had to pick up passengers in Bilbao and return to Zurich before the airport's closing time for the night.


This type of incident is not uncommon. In 2022, approximately 26 million pieces of luggage were lost, delayed, or damaged, equating to nearly eight bags in every 1,000. Now, if you find yourself in a similar situation in India, here's what you can do.

What to do?

Imagine you've lost expensive luggage with valuable items inside. Your initial reaction might involve frustration and panic, but once you've settled down, here are some steps you can take to recover your luggage:

Report the loss immediately

  • The first step is to visit the airline's service desk immediately to report the missing bag. Airlines are more likely to acknowledge their responsibility when issues are reported promptly.
  • If you don't see your baggage on the conveyor belt, initiate the tracing process by contacting the airport's baggage services or the airline's central department.

  • Alternatively, use an online baggage-tracing portal with the reference number found on the luggage receipt attached to your passport or boarding pass.

Fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR)

  • If your luggage is delayed or lost, complete a Property Irregularity Report (PIR). You can ask airline staff for assistance in filling it out.
  • This report is a crucial document that officially records the loss of your luggage. Ensure you receive a copy of the PIR, which will include a reference number.
  • This reference code will help you track your baggage and confirm whether the airline has received it or not.

  • Also, make sure the airline has your contact information, including local and destination phone numbers and an email address, to facilitate communication once they locate your baggage

Ask for compensation

You may be eligible for compensation even if your airline has delayed the arrival of your luggage. Check your airline's website, as different airlines have their own compensation rules.

  • For example, in the event that your checked-in baggage is delayed by more than 24 hours during international travel with Air India, you can request a one-time interim expense reimbursement of INR 3000.
  • For domestic flights, if your checked-in baggage is delivered the day after or later, you can claim a reimbursement of 50% of the expenses incurred for the purchase of casual or formal clothing items, up to a maximum of INR 2000.
  • Keep in mind that this compensation is not applicable when the traveler is returning to their home airport or base station.

Remember that compensation amounts may vary if your luggage is considered lost (i.e., the airline was unable to retrieve your luggage in 21 days). For instance, with Indigo, the compensation for lost luggage is ₹19,000 per bag for domestic travel and ₹66,000 for international travel.

Additionally, if you have travel insurance, notify your insurance provider about the lost luggage. They may offer coverage for lost or delayed baggage and guide you through the claims process.

Take preventive measures

While compensation can help, it may not fully replace the value of your lost items. To minimize the risk of losing your luggage, consider taking these preventive measures:

  1. Pack essential items in your carry-on to have them with you.
  2. Label your luggage with contact information and identifiers.
  3. Take a photo of your luggage before checking it in.
  4. Remove old baggage tags to avoid confusion.
  5. Check in early to ensure proper baggage handling.
  6. Prefer non-stop or direct flights to reduce transfer risks.
  7. Use baggage tracking apps like Apple AirTags and place them in your luggage for easy tracking.
  8. Invest in TSA-approved locks for added security.
  9. Arrive early for connecting flights to allow time for baggage transfer.
Last updated: September 15, 2023 | 09:00
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