NBC 5 Responds

How to get reimbursed for lost or delayed luggage

NBC Universal, Inc.

If your summer travel plans take you to the skies, it’s good to know that according to recent numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines delivered 99.37% of checked bags on time in the first quarter of 2023. The less-than-1% of bags that weren't delivered on time added up to 692,331 bags.

“If you are in that 1%, it can be really devastating, especially if you've lost something important or valuable to you and it can be generally something that disrupts your trip,” said Sally French, NerdWallet travel writer.

French explains airlines are required to compensate passengers for “reasonable expenses.”

“It's not really clear what the definition is of reasonable. Can you go buy a new pair of jeans that cost $200 or is it reasonable to get the $20 pair of jeans from that local small store?” French said.

If you’re flying and your checked bag doesn’t make it to the carousel, consumers should head to the luggage service counter right away. French said if you confirm the bag is lost or delayed by several hours, ask what expenses are reasonable.

“The reality is that federal rules are pretty vague. So, it can be tough to make that case of can I replace this $500 suit that I had? Is that going to be replaced by the airline? It might not always be. Have that conversation upfront,” French said.

According to information on the DOT’s website, airlines are required to compensate passengers for “reasonable, verifiable and actual incidental expenses” when bags are delayed. The rules also say airlines are not allowed to set an “arbitrary daily amount for interim expenses”.

You’d have to provide paid receipts for any essentials, including toiletries, you bought. The regulation says the max baggage liability for domestic flights is $3,800 per passenger. That limit also applies to bags that may be damaged or lost for good.

Charlie Leocha, President of Travelers United, tells NBC 5 Responds it’s a good idea to snap a few photos of your bag and what’s in it before your trip. It may come in handy if you’re later navigating a lost luggage claim and the airline asks for proof of what’s in your bag.

“You have to give them a list of what you had in the bag and how much you paid for it,” Leocha said.

“If you've done that, normally the airlines will then bargain in better faith with you because now they know that you are actually someone who has now spent time looking at the rules and following them,” added Leocha.

If you are checking bags for your flight, be sure you have your own luggage tag with your name, email address and phone number.

Some passengers like to track their bags with an AirTag.

Also, avoid packing valuables like jewelry, electronics or medication in checked luggage.

“Never put those things in your checked bags, even though less than 1% of checked bags get lost completely. You don't want to be in that 1%,” said French.

Airlines have their own policies on when a bag may be declared totally “lost.” According to the DOT, it’s usually after five to 14 days. If that happens to you, airlines are required to refund the fees you paid to check the bag that was lost.

If consumers aren’t able to resolve a customer complaint through the airlines, travelers have the option to file a complaint with the DOT. DOT requires airlines to acknowledge consumer complaints within 30 days of receiving them. It requires airlines to provide consumers written responses within 60 days of receiving them.

Consumers can use this online form to complain to the DOT.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

Contact Us