You will see it happen one day – your suitcase is not coming out on the baggage belt at your destination airport. The belt will stop rotation. You will panic. Possibly you were a freshmen to conference travel, and put your laptop computer or digital camera or even your presentation into the suitcase. Well, we all get smarter when we get older. Or did we really mind a week at the French riviera on business expenses without a laptop and e-mail around? You never know.
In any case, the EU regulation prescribes that you may claim compensation for destruction, damage, loss or delay of your luggage on a flight by an EU airline, anywhere in the world. The page lists a web page with arbiters that help resolving conflicts with airlines.
File a claim ASAP!
There is a number of things to consider once your bag is gone. In most cases, it will turn up a day later, because it stayed behind, or ended up in the wrong plane. In any case, you must report to the baggage claim office, file a claim, and get a claim ticket with a claim number. This will trigger the search at the airline, and gives you a reference to the case.
You get your baggage delivered within 24 hours.
Most of the remaining action is strongly based on the airlines’ policy, written in their terms and conditions. Possibly different for different ticket classes. Be nice to the person filing your claim, as he/she did not lose your luggage, and most likely, is not even employed by the airline you file a claim against, but by the airport. Many airlines ask for 24 hours to find the baggage – and deliver it for free to your hotel or home address with a courier or a taxi. A solution I prefer on the way home, as heavy loaded suitcases filled with tax-free items will be carried to the front door by the driver.
Go shopping with an airline representative!
Your remaining problem might be the temporary unavailability of items from the suitcase, such as tooth brushes, ties, or presentation suits. Many airlines offer a towel-toothbrush-soap emergency pack.
Some airlines actually go shopping with you if you can show them a conference program with you as the keynote speaker of the day. You might get the opportunity to ask your favorite flight attendant to close the zipper on your new costume.
Most likely, however, you will be ignored for 24 hours if you’re not insisting. EU policy says that the airline is fully responsible for delay damages. But it’s you who has to make a point, and claim the necessary errands. If you’re in a hurry, and you can’t get a hold of the airline’s credit card, then you can still send the bill on to the airline, referencing your claim number.
Total loss implies paperwork.
If the bag doesn’t turn up within a month, you can file a claim for damages. However, the total refundable damage might be restricted to a maximum. Some airlines exclude jewellery or electronics from the refunds, and some ask you to file with your travel insurance or credit card insurance first. As with any insurance case, you will be required to list items and value estimates, and possibly you need to attach a few receipts for credibility.
Read the airline baggage terms & conditions before you put indispensable or valuable things into check-in baggage!