Did Your Airline Lose Your Luggage? Here's What Compensation You're Entitled To

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  • Airlines have been sorely understaffed this year, and that's led to more headaches for travelers.
  • If your luggage goes missing, your airline has to make things right.
  • There are preset maximums that the airline works with to determine how much to compensate you.

It's important to know your rights as a traveler.

In the wake of the pandemic, many industries have grappled with labor shortages. And that extends to airlines.

Not only have flights been subject to extreme delays and cancellations over the past few months, but there's been an uptick in travelers' luggage getting lost. In April, close to 220,000 bags were either lost, damaged, delayed, or stolen, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation. That's well more than twice the number of bags that were mishandled a year prior.

If your luggage is lost in the course of your travels, you should know that you are entitled to compensation. Here's what that might look like.

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When your luggage is lost

Sometimes, luggage that's initially misplaced shows up days later. But what if your bag never makes it back to you?

In that case, your airline must offer you reasonable compensation up to a preset maximum, which is about $1,800 for domestic flights and $3,800 for international flights. Your airline must also refund any fees your credit card was charged for checking a bag.

To be clear, this doesn't automatically mean you'll get an $1,800 check if your suitcase is lost in the course of a domestic flight. You'll need to file a claim with your airline, and the contents of your bag will determine what compensation you're entitled to. The $1,800 and $3,800 figures above represent airlines' maximum liability per bag.

Read more: Should You Sign Up for an Airline Credit Card While Flying?

Keep in mind that the rules are different if an airline loses assistive devices for disabled travelers. If walkers or wheelchairs are lost, the liability there could amount to up to $20,000.

It's worth noting that different airlines have different thresholds for when luggage is considered lost. You may have to wait up to two weeks for your bag to fall into that category.

When your luggage is delayed

The liability figures above also apply in situations where luggage is delayed. If your bag shows up late, you're entitled to reimbursement for expenses you incur as a result of not having your belongings, provided those purchases are reasonable.

For example, let's say your suitcase shows up to your beach resort 48 hours after your arrival. If you purchase two days' worth of clothing, swimwear, and toiletries, you'll generally be entitled to compensation, because those are reasonable items to need.

How to avoid luggage issues in the first place

The best way to avoid having your luggage lost, delayed, or stolen? Don't check a bag. If you're taking a short enough trip, it may be possible to cram everything you need into a carry-on bag that never leaves your sight. That way, you'll not only avoid the headache of a lost suitcase, but you might also save yourself a nice chunk of money by avoiding a fee to check a bag.

Although some travel reward credit cards offer the benefit of free checked bags, not every credit card does. So you might as well save yourself money and a hassle by packing light.

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