Having problems with an airline over delayed or lost luggage can really ruin a trip. But there are a few things you can do to get resolution and possibly compensation.
If you arrive at your destination and find that your luggage is missing, here is what you should do:
Locate the counter in the baggage claim area for luggage issues. It is possible the bag may have arrived before you, or on another baggage carousel, or it is on its way on another flight.
If this is not the case, make sure to immediately file a written claim with the airline, documenting all of the contents as best as you can, and ask the airline to deliver your luggage to your hotel, home or other location as soon as it arrives.
If your luggage is severely delayed (more than four hours) or lost, you may be able to receive compensation. The amount of compensation can vary from one airline to another, but most airlines will offer reimbursement for reasonable expenses of essential items that are needed to get you by. But you will need receipts. The airline may not reimburse everything at full value if it does not believe the expense is reasonable.
If the bag is determined to be lost, the airline must reimburse for any baggage fees that you paid as part of the fare, as well as the depreciated value of the contents up to $3,500 for domestic flights and about $1,600 for international flights. There can be exceptions to this rule, so it may be best to read your contract of carriage with the airline, as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation rules pertaining to lost and delayed luggage.
If you run into problems with the reimbursement, contact the airline and try to renegotiate. If you are getting nowhere, you might also want to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation and copy the airline on your complaint. If you paid for your flight with a credit card, some credit cards offer compensation and may be able to help with a dispute. Our Call 4 Action office may be able to help as well.