My Luggage Is Lost – What Do I Do Now?

You’ve been travelling on your flight for what seems like “forever”, you navigate your way through Customs formalities and wait at the baggage carousel expecting your luggage. Forever hopeful, you see the last bag come off and yours is nowhere to be seen. What do you do now?

Lost luggage is one of the unfortunate nightmares of airline travel however the development of baggage handling systems worldwide by airlines and airports is reducing the number of incidents. But that’s not something that you’re going to be thinking of when it’s your bag that’s missing.

Loading luggage at airport

There are a variety of reasons your bag may not have arrived:

  • if you had a tight connection, it may have missed being loaded on to your connecting flight.
  • it may have been mistakenly loaded on to the incorrect aircraft
  • the baggage tag may have become separated from the bag
  • it may have arrived and was picked up in error by another passenger – yes this definitely happens when so many bags look alike and in this case, it isn’t the responsibility of the airline.
  • although I hate to say it, sometimes bags just go missing, never to be seen again. It’s not so common but unfortunately it does happen. Whether its straight-out theft or there’s a Bermuda Triangle of missing bags, I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Don’t panic as in many cases, the bag can be tracked very quickly via your baggage tag reference number and if it’s only a case of it being loaded onto the incorrect aircraft, it should hopefully arrive on the next flight for you and will usually be delivered by the airline.

What do I do when my bag hasn’t arrived?

  • Go to the baggage services counter straight away and report the missing bag. Please be polite and calm – it isn’t their fault and they are there to try and assist you and reunite you with your belongings. To expedite matters, have your baggage receipt available to show them with the tag number. These are often attached to the back of your boarding pass.
airline baggage receipt

Your baggage receipt will reflect the information that was on your baggage tag. The bag tag number in this case is TG (the code of the first airline you flew with on this journey) plus the applicable reference number (376251).

  • The staff member will create a baggage file for you and this can be monitored via Worldtracer. The reference will be the 3 letter code for the city you arrived in e.g. SYD for Sydney, followed by the 2 letter code for the airline e.g. SQ for Singapore Airlines followed by a 5 digit numerical number. So it will look like SYDSQ14637 or BRUTG13839 if you arrived in Brussels and flying with Thai Airways. Keep this reference handy as you’ll need it when speaking to staff regarding your file.
  • You can monitor your file via the Worldtracer system. Enter your file reference and surname, and you’ll be able to check on its arrival plus change your details if necessary.


Worldtracer search

Front page of Worldtracer link requesting your file reference number and surname

Passenger information in Worldtracer

You can check your information on the Worldtracer site and change the information if necessary.

Baggage information in Worldtracer

This page will show the information on the description of your bag and the date it was received. This should have been followed up by a phone call from your airline’s baggage representative.

  • If you haven’t had any update from the airline, give the baggage handling department a call. Ask for the applicable telephone number for a follow-up at the time of making the original report.

Note: If you’ve arrived e.g. in Mumbai and your bag hasn’t arrived, don’t ask your relatives to start enquiring about your lost luggage in the city you departed from on the other side of the world unless you’re really not getting any sense or help from the local office. This should be followed up directly with the city you put the claim in with. Why?

– Privacy laws in many countries don’t allow airlines to divulge information to a 3rd party

– The original office may already have information regarding the bag and are in the process of contacting the passenger

– In most cases, the family/friend calling from the other end does not have the required information in order to locate the file. (speaking from my experience).

Baggage Claim Process

  • If your lost luggage still hasn’t been located after a couple of weeks, ask your airline to explain the baggage claim process. They will be able to send you a claim form where you can fill in the additional information required and list all items that were in the bag, together with their current value. Keep in mind that the pair of jeans you paid $200.00 for two years ago will not be worth $200.00 now – they’ll have depreciated in value and are worth less. The airline (or insurance company) will take this into account when assessing your claim. It is also helpful to include copies of any receipts for items that were in the bag. It is up to the individual airlines as to when they consider a bag “lost” however this should normally be around the 4 week mark.

Just a note – don’t claim for items that were not in your case. Not only is it dishonest, its fraud. The number of times I’ve seen a claim with so many items that they wouldn’t have even fitted in a suitcase is ridiculous. And for people who start claiming for personal items adding up to thousands of dollars, well the airline won’t be paying for the majority of it and you’ll end up having to fight with your travel insurance company over the claim.

  • The amount claimable is dependent on whether the airline follows the Montreal or Warsaw Convention and this can depend on the country where the loss occurred. This information can usually be found on the airline’s website under their Conditions of Contract or Conditions of Carriage or obtained from the airline directly.
  • If you have used multiple airlines on your journey to get from A to B, the last airline you travelled with is the one who will handle your claim. e.g. if you travelled London-Dubai with British Airways and connected with Emirates from Dubai to Sydney, then Emirates will be the one handling your claim. If you travelled Brisbane-Bangkok with Thai Airways then connected Bangkok-Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, then Turkish Airlines will handle your claim and give you the file reference to match e.g. ISTTK15364. Any further correspondence, even on your return, should be with that airline.

Interim Expenses

If your bag has been delayed for over 24 hours, you may be entitled to interim expenses for emergency items if you are not in your home city. The company policy and amount may not be consistent for all airlines so check this with the airline directly. Make sure you keep any receipts for items you have had to purchase (no – not that expensive handbag to replace the one in your luggage – necessities only). It will not only assist you in claiming from the airline but also from your travel insurance company if necessary.

I’ve created another post regarding additional baggage tips which will hopefully reduce the risk of your luggage going astray. I hope the above pointers are of assistance and cross fingers you’ll never have to make use of the information and your luggage will arrive with you wherever your journey takes you.




11 thoughts on “My Luggage Is Lost – What Do I Do Now?

  1. Cyril

    Some great information regarding lost luggage. We have been lucky I suppose and I have only lost my suitcase once on my travels, and that was on a business trip, so I had to buy some more clothes to attend the meetings that I had to go to. That time I was fully reimbursed and had no problems. Things are a lot more organized now, reading your post, it was in the 70’s that I had my problem

    1. Airline Girl Post author

      I guess with the multitude of bags that are travelling along with pax every day, the percentage of missing bags is very small. However, if you happen to be the unlucky one, that isn’t a factor you keep in mind I suppose. So pleased you haven’t had any further hassles with your luggage since the 70’s Cyril. Therese

  2. Laura

    This is the kind of situation nobody wants to have to happen to them, but it’s definitely good to be clued-up just in case it ever does!! A very informative post that I will keep bookmarked for future reference!!

    1. Airline Girl Post author

      Thank you Laura. Pleased you have found the post useful. Hopefully you’ll never have to use the information & your luggage will travel safely with you wherever you go. Therese

  3. Megan Jerrard

    From the many hundreds of thousands of bags which go through airports every day, I’m genuinely surprised that lost luggage doesn’t happen more frequently. I’ve had this happen to me once, and luckily it arrived within 24 hours – still gave me an excuse to go on a tiny shopping spree and get some new clothes though :D!

    Thanks for sharing such comprehensive insight – I can’t believe people would take advantage by trying to claim for more than they could even fit in a suitcase! I usually take photos of my luggage before I fly, so I know exactly what I’ve got in the bag in case I have to claim anything.

    1. Airline Girl Post author

      Taking a photo of you luggage, both inside & out is a great idea Megan.

      Unfortunately we do come across those dishonest people who try & claim for items that you just know were never in their case – we’ve had people try and say they had thousands of dollars worth of jewellery or $1000.00 cash etc etc in their bag then say they don’t have travel insurance. Airlines don’t cover those types of items anyway & if they did have insurance, I’m pretty sure they’d strike out with their insurance company too. Therese

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