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Lost Luggage: Small Chance, but Big Pain

Statistics say luggage is lost from airline flights less than 1 percent of the time, but it's the second most-common passenger complaint.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When you travel by plane, you just hope your bags will be at your destination when you get there. It's a dreaded feeling to realize your luggage did not make it to the carousel.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 380,000 bags went astray just in the month of September. The perception among travelers is worse than the fact—luggage is lost less than 1 percent of the time—but missing or damaged luggage ranks second on the airline consumer complaint list.

In the first nine months of this year, almost 3 million bags were reported lost.

Janet McDermott experienced it

"We got off our flight and went to the luggage carousel, as one does, and waited and waited and watched and watched, and the luggage didn't show up."

Most lost luggage is eventually found and returned, but that's little consolation for having to go days without it. You can increase the chances that a missing bag will be returned, however.

"If you're checking your bags, put a note in each bag that has contact information and a copy of your itinerary,” said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports. “That way, it'll be easy for the airline to know where your bags are supposed to go."

If your bags don't arrive, report it to the airline's customer service office immediately.

The best advice is not to lose your temper along with the luggage because airlines aren't required to do anything if bags are only misplaced or delayed.

Kleman’s advice is:
  • Be firm
  • Get employee names]
  • Save receipts]

Be friendly but firm about what you'll need till your bags arrive, such as a suit for a business meeting. If an employee tells you to make purchases, get his or her name. If you buy things for which you want to be reimbursed, be sure to save the receipts.

Another option, get travel insurance.

The McDermotts did, so the clothes Janet bought were covered. Insurance can run about 5 percent to 7 percent of the cost of your trip, but the peace of mind might be worth it.

Sometimes airlines offer reward miles or ticket vouchers to passengers with lost luggage. If you get that offer, check for restrictions. Tight deadlines and excessive block-out dates can make those miles hard to use.


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