Increasingly strict flight regulations are making air travel more complicated. Ensure lost luggage isn't an added complication by following these tips

Though it may be difficult to believe, major airlines have actually improved their mishandled-baggage record in recent years. In fact, lost-luggage reports have declined by almost 21% in the past year. 

However, the current odds of your luggage getting “mishandled" - a term that includes lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered baggage - are about 1 in 200. Unfortunately, that’s not much consolation if you’re one of the unlucky few.

Getting Your Luggage from Point A to Point B

Here are a few ways to fight the odds.

  • Plan for problems. Pack your carry-on wisely, so that you can live out of it for a few days if necessary. Include toiletries, medications, and a change of clothes.
  • Pay attention to your bag’s destination tag. This will ensure it’s checked through to the right place. Remove any old luggage tags to avoid confusion.
  • Don’t check in late. If you cut your check-in time too close to departure, your bags might not make it onto the plane in time for takeoff.
  • Identify your luggage — inside and out. I always tuck a business card inside my luggage just in case. Lack of ID tags is a major reason that luggage ends up lost.
  • Get to the baggage claim. It’s also a good idea to be at the carousel right when bags are off-loaded. This way, you avoid another passenger accidentally grabbing your luggage, because it looks similar to theirs. The inevitable “sea of black bags” that goes around the carousel often causes confusion.
  • Make your luggage distinct. It’s a good idea to add a colourful strap or luggage tag onto your black luggage. Not only will it help differentiate your bag from the bunch, it will make it easier to spot coming down the chute. 

Double check your baggage before you leave the airport to make sure you have the right bags. (Image: Flickr / tymesynk)

What to Do if Your Bag Gets Lost

If your bag is lost or delayed, file a report immediately at the airline’s claims desk and get a copy. Next, ask the airline what it can do for you. If your luggage is going to take a while to get back to you, some airlines will issue petty cash to purchase toiletries and other essentials. Other airlines will even provide coupons for rental of special clothing and equipment such as ski and snowboard outfits and the skis themselves.

If your luggage is damaged by the airline, which happens more often than they would like, point out the damage to customer service. Often the airline will have your suitcase repaired, or may have a supply of replacement suitcases in their backroom, which can solve the problem on the spot.

Avoid Hassle by Travelling Light

In reality, millions of bags are lost every year, but millions also make it safely to their destinations. Whenever you can, fly only with carry-on luggage for less hassle.