A simple step-by-step lesson on how to deal with your lost luggage. Learn what to expect when making a lost baggage claim. Should you make your claim with the airline or the insurance company? How much money will you be reimbursed for your lost stuff? Learn a simple strategy to ensure you receive the maximum cash reimbursement. It only takes a few minutes.

Go Naked into the World

If the airlines lose your luggage, expect to be disappointed twice if you don’t have travel insurance.

First, there’s disappointment in losing your stuff. Second, the odds of collecting full reimbursement from the airlines for your lost items is probably zero.

Certainly the hotel will be sympathetic to your lost luggage plight and offer you free toothpaste, bath soap and a toothbrush. However, don’t expect the airline to buy you a new suit, shoes, cargo pants and PJs immediately after making a claim. What that means is that besides the clothes you wore on your flight, the only other covering you’ll have is your birthday suit in all its naked glory.

You Got Nothing to Prove Anything

When you make a claim against an airline for lost baggage, expect to fill out a form that lists the baggage brand and all contents. And don’t expect that you’ll be reimbursed immediately. Nor will you realize complete reimbursement for your loss.

The airlines will want you to list all the lost contents and their value. Oh, you don’t have a list of contents? Of course you don’t. People don’t carry around lists of goods packed in luggage. And certainly you have a pile of receipts matching each item to prove every item’s value, right? No? Well, isn’t that unusual…

There are schemes to get around this problem and be reimbursed, which you’ll learn shortly.

Meet the Airline Accountants and Lawyers

In the meantime, know that the reimbursement value of your lost baggage and contents will fall to the mercy of the airline’s accounting and legal departments. By dumping your lost stuff among lawyers and accountants, it’s a pretty sure bet that your claim will be examined with a microscope and severely limited. Don’t be flummoxed yet because the Montreal Protocol is somewhat on your side.

Under international airline regulations, know as the Montreal Convention, passengers are gifted certain rights concerning lost baggage. The average compensation under this rule allows $1,525 to $3,500 for lost or damaged luggage. However, read on because you’re going to take a financial hit.

The small print in the airline’s agreement, that you agreed to when buying a ticket, will depreciate the value of every item you’re making a claim on. There’s also a long list of items that the airlines will refuse to cover. And processing your claim may take weeks because the airline has to admit it really, really lost your stuff. Thirty days must pass before luggage is officially declared lost.

Exchanging Prada for a Walmart Special

What all this means is that it’s highly unlikely that you will be fully reimbursed for the airline’s carelessness. So, if you lost four pairs of socks, you might only be reimbursed for two. Your $1,000 lost business suit might see enough a cash to buy an off-the-rack JC Penney sport coat. As for those Prada shoes, you’ll most likely get sufficient cash to buy a new pair on-sale at Walmart.

It gets better – for the airlines, that is. Expect the airline lost luggage reimbursement cash to take four weeks to three months before it’s in your hand. And don’t be surprised if the airline offers future travel vouchers rather than cash. Read the small print to learn your fate.

By the way, be certain to make a claim for lost luggage before you leave the airport. Waiting will complicate your life so much more than it already is.

Travel Insurance Offers Better Coverage

On the other hand, travel insurance for lost luggage and contents will generally cover replacement costs up to a specific limit. The insurance will also cover baggage lost, stolen or damaged throughout the duration of the trip.

Remember, too, that the travel insurance for lost luggage will follow you everywhere you go. If the baggage is stolen from a taxi or thieves steal baggage from your hotel room, you can make a claim for reimbursement up to an agreed upon amount.

Insure Replacement Costs of Your Stuff

Where the airline may depreciate the value of clothing, goods and the baggage itself, travel insurance luggage coverage can ensure full replacement costs. Items costing more than $150 will usually require a receipt to ensure lost luggage reimbursement.

If you’re traveling to attend a wedding or business meeting where expensive duds will be worn, it might be a good reason to buy that expensive ensemble now. And save the receipt.

Protect Your Luggage With Photos

If you don’t have a receipt for an item valued at $150 or more, you may be able to request a receipt from the company where you bought the item.

If you don’t have receipts, simply lay out all the items on a blanket you plan to carry in your luggage. Take a photo. Take close-up photos of labels. Include a newspaper with the date and headline. This is a common procedure used to verify items owned when applying for homeowner’s insurance.

This tactic will give your travel insurer a rough estimate of the clothing’s value. Doing this will take a half-hour of time. And put you a step ahead of others who have no proof of items.

Another protective measure is to take a photo of the baggage as you check in at the desk for the flight.

Details, Details, Details

Read each travel insurance policy closely. The policy will state a maximum reimbursement and what price will paid for every individual item. Policy limits generally range from $250 to $5,000. Per item reimbursement sums can range from $250 to $1,000.

Expensive individual items are best covered through a homeowners or rental policy. This would include items like jewelry, cameras, laptops and sporting equipment. Items not covered by travel insurance may include dentures, debit and credit cards and contact lenses.

Two Classes of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance lost luggage coverage is divided into two classes: temporary loss of luggage and permanent loss.

Temporary loss will cover reimbursement for essential personal items until the lost luggage shows up. The insurer will cut you a check to buy items like clothing, toiletries and shoes.

Permanent loss will reimburse the traveler for the baggage and lost items up to policy limits.

Also realize that travel insurance is mostly issued and described as secondary. What that means is that travel insurance benefits are paid out only after primary sources, like airlines, pay you first.

If a reimbursement claim is denied under your travel insurance, consider filing a claim under the policy’s arbitration clause. You can also seek reimbursement through your state’s insurance commissioner.

Which Airline Loses the Most Luggage

Just for fun, here’s the 10 best to worst airlines in lost luggage. LuggageHero.com tabulated this list:

1. Delta Airlines

2. Spirit Airlines

3. Jetblue Airlines

4. United Airlines

5. Alaska Airlines

6. Frontier Airlines

7. Southwest Airlines

8. Hawaiian Airlines

9. American Airlines

10. Skywest Airlines

Three Keys to Protect Your Stuff

The key to meeting the problem of lost luggage is to plan ahead. First, realize that the airlines will not fully reimburse you for your loss. Two, travel insurance will step in where the airlines fall short and get real close to covering your entire loss. And three, use receipts or photos as proof of what you lost.

If you have any questions or statements, please leave a comment below. Thank you.

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