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When the airline damages your luggage

By Sharyn Alden ... Travel Stories
Published On: Oct 04 2011 01:33:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 26 2010 03:44:38 AM CDT
suitcase

If you're like most travelers, you hold your breath at airport luggage carousels. You don't feel like you've fully arrived at your destination until your luggage shows up.

Travelers who have lost luggage know losing a bag can happen to anyone no matter where you travel.

But wait a minute. After your bag shows on the carousel and the relief subsides, do you spend a few minutes to check the bag over before rushing out of the airport?

Most travelers probably don't. They just haul away their luggage and don't bother giving it a once over until they unpack it at home.

Oops, not so fast. Every time you unload your suitcase from the baggage carousel you should take a few minutes to check it out before leaving the airport.

Here's why. At most airports, making an in-person lost luggage claim, while inconvenient, is an integral and important element in the world of travel today.

It's common knowledge that if your bag is lost you should file a claim before exiting the airport. Besides, you'll want to give the airport representative your contact information so they can deliver your bag when it does arrive.

But many travelers don't realize that if your bag is damaged, you should also file a claim, at the airport, not when you get home. At that time it's your word against theirs regarding where the damage took place, at the airport and your home or during the time the airline was handling your luggage.

After you've spotted a broken zipper on your luggage, or tears or dents due to the handling process, head over to the airline's lost (and damaged) claim area at the airport with your claims checks in hand. Here's where time can move more slowly than the rest of the world. Talk yourself into staying cool, pleasant and patient.

Keep in mind that you may be entitled to having the airline repair or replace your suitcase. If items inside the bag were damaged or destroyed due to faulty baggage handling, you may be reimbursed, but you'll undoubtedly have to prove their value by way of receipts.

Be prepared to hear that the airline may dispute your repair or replacement claim. They may say those nicks and dents on the bag are due to normal wear and tear. If these are very minor abrasions, chances are your claim will be denied. And they also may be willing to repair one or more areas of your suitcase but not repair or replace the bag's broken wheels.

  • If you have a photo of your bag taken before the last flight, this will help prove your bag is not in the same condition that it arrived. Some travelers take a photo of my bag with a camera that dates the photo ? you can easily do this with a camera phone if you aren't carrying a camera. If you are using photos to show the condition of the bag, take several photos from all angles.
  • Airlines usually have a 24-48 hour time frame for making a damaged bag claim.
  • If you are starting the claims process at the airport where you are changing planes, don't leave your bag with the representative. If they insist on keeping the bag so they can send it out to repair, ask for a replacement bag immediately so you can easily continue on your flight. Sure, you'll have to take everything out of your bag, but it may be better than having to buy a new bag or repair it at your own cost when you get home.
  • If the airline agrees to repair or replace your bag, they may suggest you take the damage bag to your nearest airport at home. This sounds like a good plan but make sure you have all the paperwork in tow before you leave the claims office. Get the agent's name, as well as name of supervisor, and direct phone number, and fax number of the claims office where you initiated the claim.

  • If it's time to replace your suitcase, look for well-made luggage.
  • Look for bags that have soft-sided yet strong material like those with ballistic nylon. Other advantages are that they are flexible and durable.
  • Don't over-pack your suitcase. If you do, it's prone to having a broken zipper or gauged-in sides.
  • Don't have protruding straps, hanger hooks or other items sticking out of the bag.
  • If you have fancy, expensive luggage in light colors like yellow or pink, recognize that these bags will probably get dirty if you check them.
  • Expandability: Shop for suitcases that have an 'expansion' feature--usually a second zippered compartment on the outside to allow you to add room inside as you need it. This is great for trips where you know you'll be buying gifts or souvenirs during your travels.

Price: Think of buying luggage as being a good investment. Buy brands that have features that will give you the most miles for your money.