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There aren’t many more frustrating situations than landing at the airport and waiting at baggage claim, only to realise your bag isn’t on the carousel.

As more Australians jet off on international holidays, and airlines continue to struggle with staffing shortages, we explore what your rights are if your luggage is lost, and what to do if you find yourself in this unfortunate position.

Lodge a report with the airline

If you can’t find your bag, go to the baggage services office and lodge a report with the airline. They will need details of your flight and a description of your luggage. It will be helpful to have the bag tag given to you at check-in and to give as much information as possible such as the colour, brand and any identifying features of your suitcase.

We recommend lodging this report before you leave the airport, even if the airline tells you your luggage is on the next flight – just in case something goes wrong. Some airlines also have strict time limits for lodging a report, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Take a photo of the report you lodged as it will include a reference number that will assist you in keeping track of the status of your luggage, and the airline should also be in contact with you to provide updates.

You may also be entitled to an immediate cash payment to cover toiletries, transport and accommodation. Airlines don’t routinely publicise this though so it’s worth asking when you lodge the report.

Is the airline responsible for delivering your luggage?

Yes. The airline is responsible for finding and delivering your luggage to you at your home address. This is tricky if you’re travelling internationally, but you may be able to ask that it be delivered to the accommodation you’re staying at or to the nearest airport.

What’s the difference between delayed and lost luggage?

If your checked baggage doesn’t arrive with you, it will be considered delayed for the first 21 days. After 21 days, if your luggage still hasn’t been found, the airline may deem it lost. In most cases, baggage is delayed rather than lost.

What are your rights if your baggage is lost?

If you travelled domestically, you may be entitled to compensation under an Australian law called the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act. You could be compensated up to a maximum of $3,000 for checked baggage and $300 for unchecked baggage.

For international travel, an airline’s liability is covered by one of two international treaties: the Montreal Convention or the Warsaw Convention. These conventions have different amounts of compensation so you will need to review your airline’s website for the next steps, for example submitting a separate lost baggage claim.

What about travel insurance?

If there’s a shortfall between what the airline pays you as compensation and what your items are worth, you may be able to lodge a claim for the difference with your travel insurer. It’s worth reading your airline’s ‘conditions of carriage’ before you travel to see what they will cover for lost baggage and whether you’ll need insurance to cover the gap for items of high value.

You should also review your credit card coverage before buying extra travel insurance, as many credit card providers offer free travel insurance if you pay a certain amount towards the trip's costs on your card. But always take care to read the product disclosure statement to understand what you will be covered for.

Quick tips:

  • Pack your essentials into carry-on luggage
  • Take pictures of your luggage and its contents so staff can accurately record the details
  • Invest in a digital tracking device (like an AirTag) to help locate your luggage
  • If possible, book flights with a generous layover as most issues occur with tight connections
  • Keep receipts for anything you buy to get you through the delays without your luggage
  • If you’re travelling with something worth more than the airline’s liability limit, you may be able to declare and pay an ‘excess value charge’ for your luggage when you check your bags in.

If you need help with a travel insurance claim, get in touch today.

Our expert travel insurance lawyers can help you understand exactly what you can claim or help you navigate the complexity of disputing a rejected claim.

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