Lost suitcase on a baggage carousel

What to do if the suitcase is lost

The baggage carousel stops, but you're still standing there without your suitcase - right after "missed flight" the worst-case scenario for every air traveler. But does that necessarily mean you'll never see your luggage again? In 95% of cases, the answer to this question is no. Find out now what you can do if your suitcase is lost, what claims for compensation you have and what our tips are for relaxed traveling with suitcases.

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Suitcase lost - what to do?

The first thing to do is to stay calm. Just because your suitcase is not on your assigned baggage carousel does not automatically mean that your suitcase is lost. Look around carefully to see if anyone has accidentally mistaken your suitcase for their own and, if possible, check surrounding baggage carousels as well.

If you still can't find your bag, report to the baggage counter and tell the "Lost and Found" information that your bag has been lost. Here you will be asked to show your ticket with the corresponding registration number of your lost luggage. You should also be able to describe your suitcase as precisely as possible. It is therefore advisable to travel with a conspicuous suitcase, of which it is best to take a photo before the start of the trip.

If your suitcase cannot be found directly on the basis of the baggage registration number, you must file a loss report. This must be submitted to the relevant airline as soon as possible after your suitcase is lost, preferably before you leave the airport. The form contains your contact details, such as telephone number and address. If your suitcase is secured by a lock, you must also include the appropriate combination or key to unlock it.

In most cases, your lost luggage will turn up within a day and will be delivered free of charge to the address provided. Foreign travelers have priority in this procedure. However, those who do not live near the airport, because it was only a stopover, for example, will have to wait correspondingly longer.

Lost property office at the airport

Lost suitcase: right to compensation?

The right to compensation of passengers on air travel in case of delay, damage or loss of their luggage is internationally regulated in the Montreal Convention. According to this, you as a passenger have the right to compensation payment of the equivalent of maximum 1300€, if due to the fault of the airline your suitcase is permanently lost on the flight.

However, this money can be expected at the earliest 1.5 months after your suitcase has been lost. If your luggage has not been found after five days, you must describe the contents and value in a detailed questionnaire. Only after 21 days your suitcase is officially considered lost. The contents will then be reimbursed to you in a lump sum within 30 days of submitting the list that has been prepared.

If you find yourself without luggage at your destination airport because your suitcase has been lost, you may still want to brush your teeth and change your clothes promptly. A round of extensive shopping at the airline's expense? Unfortunately, the fact that you can change your clothes at the airline's expense if your luggage is lost is only partly true. Especially since every airline offers its passengers different baggage loss compensation. This depends not least on the type of ticket you have. If you are an economy class traveler and lose your luggage, you can generally expect less compensation than someone in first class.

But the usual minimum that pretty much every airline offers is hygiene kits. In addition, you can usually count on an advance from the airline. So, if your suitcase is really lost and you temporarily need the most necessary things, such as a change of clothes, you will get a small sum for it. The amount of the advance generally depends on your booked class. However, the exact amount will vary depending on the individual case. For example, if your wedding dress was lost with the suitcase, you can expect more money than a normal vacationer. In any case, keep all receipts to submit to the airline later.

For package tours, you are also entitled to price reductions for lost luggage. Information on how much compensation you are personally entitled to, as well as ready-made PDFs for applying for discounts, can be found on the ADAC site, for example.

Why do suitcases get lost?

A valid question that arises when your suitcase is lost is how it could have happened in the first place.

Most suitcases go missing where there is a lot of stress. This is especially the case at large hub airports, where tightly timed flights must load thousands of passengers and pieces of luggage in parallel. Delayed or canceled flights can quickly upset an airport's organizational system. So can strikes or unpredictable weather changes. In the case of a more chaotic initial situation, it can accordingly also happen more quickly that one or the other suitcase gets lost - although this is an exception.In addition, it can happen that pieces of luggage are incorrectly labeled or a label is missing completely. This can happen if the label is accidentally torn off during loading. Also, lack of time during stopovers can be the cause of a suitcase being lost and not arriving with you at the destination airport.

Tips for traveling with suitcase

In order for you to be able to face your next flight with suitcase calmly, and to not have to worry about leaving the airport empty-handed, here we have gathered the most important tips for you to prepare properly:

  1. Plan for sufficient connecting time
    When booking your next trip, make sure you have at least an hour of connecting time on site, especially if you have to change planes at major airports. This way, the window of time to load your luggage is larger and the risk of losing your suitcase is smaller. If you want to be on the safe side, you should opt for a direct flight - if possible.

  2. High recognition value
    As mentioned earlier, should your suitcase get lost, you need to be able to describe it as accurately as possible. It can therefore be advantageous to travel with eye-catching, colorful luggage. On this, it is best to also note the name and address and take a photo of it. However, stick to the usual suitcase format, because bulky suitcases carry an increased risk of being damaged during loading.

  3. Take a loss into account when packing
    If you are traveling with multiple suitcases, it is advisable to distribute your belongings wisely among your luggage. For example, you should carry all important papers, medicines and valuables in your hand luggage if possible. If you lose your suitcase, you will at least have the most important and necessary things with you. Also make sure that your suitcase can be closed well and securely and that the bar code is firmly attached at check-in.

    Tip: : What exactly should and may be in the hand luggage? You can find out more about this in our article Facts about hand luggage.

  4. Damage limitation
    Your suitcase should be eye-catching, but not a valuable item in itself. Therefore, when choosing your suitcase, make sure that it is safe but dispensable in case of doubt. If the suitcase is then lost, it is only a pity for its contents. It also makes your luggage less attractive for theft.

  5. Baggage insurance
    According to the Montreal Convention, your claim for compensation in case of luggage loss is limited to approximately 1,300€. If your luggage exceeds this value, it is advisable to think about a luggage insurance, because this way you can be reimbursed a higher amount in case of loss. Note: The compensation amount is calculated per person and not per piece of luggage.

Nevertheless, be assured that with the mass of luggage that is transported every year, lost suitcases are only a rare exception. Moreover, in most cases, luggage is quickly recovered, so it is even rarer for suitcases to remain lost. Instead, it is often forwarded to you the following day at the latest, so that you can look forward to a relaxed vacation despite minor teething problems. Have a good trip!