Lost Luggage: Are You Covered Without Travel Insurance?

Delayed, damaged, lost, and stolen bags go hand-in-hand with traveling. In fact incidents of mishandled luggage increased 24% in 2021, according to a study by aviation technology company SITA. That’s about 6 out of every 1000 bags mishandled in the second half of 2021. In December 2021, a total of 262,327 bags were mishandled, with 49,535 of those bags being mishandled by American Airlines alone.

The likelihood of experiencing luggage loss or delay is about 4.7 times higher on international routes than on domestic ones, which is why we’re seeing more bags get mishandled and lost ever since COVID restrictions on flying were lifted.

In 2021 there were a total of 192 baggage complaints with the airlines, compared with 54 in 2020. Of all mishandled luggage, lost and stolen bags accounted for 6% of all luggage issues, while damaged and pilfered baggage accounted for 23%.

If you’re traveling around the month of December, take note that it’s the busiest time of the season for flying and for losing luggage in airports. Here are some details on how to protect your personal belongings before your next trip.

Baggage Loss Vs Baggage Delay

Your bag may be lost or delayed. There are protections for your luggage in both of these instances. If you purchased a travel insurance policy (or have a premium travel card) that offers baggage insurance benefits, the baggage delay coverage will reimburse you for the purchase of essential items such as a toothbrush, toiletries, change of clothes, and more, for each day that you are without your belongings.

If you have lost luggage, look at your homeowners insurance policy first before seeking reimbursement from the travel insurance provider, which limits the amount you can claim for the high-end items. You may be fully covered if you have home, renters or condo insurance. The off-premises coverage portion of your policy would cover losses of personal property outside of the home.

If you’re filing a lost luggage claim, there is a minimum amount of time that has to pass before you are eligible for reimbursement. Read the fine print of your policy to see when the coverage applies. Keep your receipts for items you purchase while you wait for your bags, in order to submit them with your claim.

Your travel insurance coverage and home insurance coverage is usually secondary. Always seek reimbursement from the airline first to avoid having to pay a deductible. File with your own insurance if you still have outstanding losses after the payout from the airline.

Lost Luggage Insurance – Do I Need It?

Airlines are legally required to offer compensation for luggage and its contents when they lose your bag. They must also refund any baggage fees you paid. You may need to provide receipts for valuable items when filing a claim with the airline, and the airline may only pay you the actual cash value rather than the replacement value of the items

Travelers are eligible for up to $3,800 from the airline after losing luggage. However, for most international flights, the liability limit is around $1,780 USD. Some airlines may offer travel credits instead, which may be worth significantly more than your belongings. Only after you are reimbursed by the airline should you look to your travel insurance or home insurance policy to reimburse costs your airline doesn't cover.

If you travel with laptops, cameras and other electronic equipment, buy a travel insurance plan that includes these items, because home insurance will have limits on off-premises losses. The maximum coverage per person for baggage insurance on most travel insurance plans ranges from $250 to $3,000.  Policies also have limits for expensive items such as jewelry, cameras and electronics, typically $250 to $500 per item, but some policies can reimburse between $1,000 and $2,500 per item.

Most travel insurance policies also have a per item coverage cap of $50 to $250 (for a piece of clothing, for instance). If you have a $250 per item cap and you lose a $5,000 suitcase, you’d only be reimbursed $250 for that item.

Exclusions include:

  • Animals
  • Auto equipment
  • Household items
  • Money
  • Perfumes
  • Perishables goods like food

In 2021 there were a total of 192 baggage complaints with the airlines, compared with 54 in 2020.

How Many Pieces of Luggage Were Lost or Delayed in 2021

Carrier

Number of Mishandled Luggage Oct 2021

Allegiant Air

877

Hawaiian Airlines

882

Frontier Airlines

2,391

Jetblue Airways

4,613

United Airlines Network

22,696

Spirit Airlines

3,516

Southwest Airlines

41,245

Alaska Airlines Network

10,757

Delta Airlines Network

42,554

American Airlines Network

65,553

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Do I Need Travel Insurance for My Luggage?

A comprehensive travel insurance policy includes coverage for baggage loss, luggage damage and baggage delay. Some coverage includes the cost of essential items you purchase while you wait for your delayed luggage. If you’re traveling with expensive clothes or have high-end luggage, buying travel insurance may be a good idea.

If you used a credit card to book your flight, your credit card company may provide coverage for luggage that gets lost in transit. Most credit card companies have a maximum limit you can claim, usually around a couple thousand dollars, but without a deductible.

Homeowners insurance (or condo/renters insurance) may cover lost luggage and items you need to replace, but keep in mind that you'll need to pay the deductible first, and your personal property limits will apply.

December is the busiest time of the season for flying and for losing luggage in airports.

What Should I Do if My Luggage Is Lost?

If you lose your bags en route, immediately let their airline know and make sure to hold on to the baggage claim check slip. It's also helpful to have photos of the luggage and the bag's brand name, size and color.

  1. Go to the airport's baggage holding office to see if it was taken there, or if they have any information about your bag.
  2. If your bag is considered officially lost, file a claim with the airline for your lost belongings and any baggage fees you paid.
  3. If there are costs that weren't reimbursed by the airline, file a claim with your travel insurer for covered items that were lost. You may need to provide original receipts for higher-value items.
  4. Find out if your credit card or property insurance policies can offer coverage for any remaining losses. Check your homeowners or renters insurance policy, and determine if filing a claim would be worthwhile after paying a deductible.

Always seek reimbursement from the airline first to avoid having to pay a deductible.

Lost Luggage FAQs

Does lost luggage usually get found or returned?

Yes, about 97% of lost luggage are returned to the owner in two days. Only about 5% of lost luggage is never found.

How much will I get for my lost suitcase?

Each airline has its own standards on reimbursement, but typically, 1,780 USD is the maximum payout, so it may be wise to take the carrier up on flight credits instead.

Key Takeaways

  • If your luggage is delayed, you are covered for essential purchases until your bag is returned, if you have travel insurance or booked your trip on a credit card that will reimburse you.
  • If your luggage is lost, file a claim with the airline first and get reimbursed for outstanding losses through your credit card company, your travel insurance policy or your homeowners insurance’s contents portion of the policy.
  • If you have high-value items you may not be reimbursed for the replacement cost of the items.

Homeowners insurance can protect you and your belongings even when you’re not home. It can come in handy for lost luggage too. If you’re not insured or want to know if you can pay less for superior coverage, compare rates by entering your zip code and answering a few questions to receive your free quotes within minutes!

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