It’s a situation that many people dread: standing at the baggage carousel and waiting for luggage to appear, only to realise that it’s been lost by the airline.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, it will be a relief to know that you organised travel insurance before going on holiday. Your travel operator should compensate you if the loss of luggage was their fault, but having an appropriate travel insurance policy will give you extra peace of mind, and also cover you if your bags are lost or stolen at a different point during your trip.
So what should you do if your bags are lost or delayed, and how can you make sure that your travel insurance covers you adequately in this scenario?
Arriving at the airport after a flight and discovering that your bags have been lost in transit can be an infuriating and stressful experience – certainly not an ideal way to start off a holiday or business trip. But don’t lose your cool: you can ensure that your luggage is either returned to you or replaced as quickly as possible by following the right procedure.
The first thing to do when you find out your luggage has been lost or delayed is to head to the help desk of the airline you travelled with. Here you can report your baggage as missing. You’ll likely be asked to fill out a property irregularity report (PIR), which should include your personal details, information about the flight you were on, and a detailed description of the luggage that was lost.
Upon submitting the PIR form, you’ll be able to keep up to date with any progress that your airline has made in locating and returning your luggage. Some airlines have an online luggage-tracking service, which saves you the hassle of calling the airline every time you want an update about your bags.
Hopefully your bags will be found swiftly and the airline will return them to you within 72 hours. In the mean time, they’re obliged to pay reasonable compensation to cover essentials like clothes and toiletries.
Bear in mind that the travel operator’s idea of ‘reasonable’ might be different to yours, so it’s a good idea to check before you go splurging on expensive replacements – not all airlines compensate with upfront cash, and you may be expected to reclaim the costs once you’re home.
But what if your luggage really is lost, rather than merely being delayed? If the airline can’t trace your luggage within 21 days, it will be officially regarded lost, and you’ll be entitled to claim full compensation from your airline.
You’ll be asked for a list of what was in your bag, as well as receipts to prove that you owned the items you’re claiming for. Unfortunately you won’t receive the cost that you paid for your items when they were new – your airline will probably deduct an amount for wear and tear.
If your airline loses your bags, then they should be your first port of call for compensation, and you should follow the procedure outlined above. However, your travel insurance provider may also be able to reimburse you, providing you have the right type of cover.
To make sure you’re covered by your travel insurance policy, do some quick maths and calculate the total value of the luggage you’re bringing on holiday with you. When buying insurance, this is the figure you should use when deciding on your policy limit for personal belongings.
Admiral Travel Insurance offers personal belongings cover of £1k, £1.5k or £2.5k, depending on the level of cover that you buy.
If you’re making a travel insurance claim for luggage that's been delayed or lost by your travel operator, you’ll need to have submitted a PIR. For any other lost luggage, report the loss or theft to the police within 24 hours of discovering your items are missing. Next, contact your insurance provider using the details you were given when you purchased your insurance, and they’ll be able to assist you with your claim.
Receipts, airline tickets and luggage tags can all help to ensure that your claim is successful, so keep hold of these. Your insurance provider will decide how best to compensate you – it might include paying for the cost of replacements, or in the case of damaged items, paying for their repair. Note that for items more than a year old, you won’t receive the full cost you paid for the item, as wear and tear will need to be taken into account.
Most travel insurance policies include a single item limit. This is the maximum amount that you will be compensated for a given item. For example, if you’ve lost a £1,000 laptop but your single item limit is £400, the latter figure is the maximum amount you’ll be able to claim for, potentially leaving you £600 out of pocket.
For valuable items like this, it may be best to arrange cover separately from your general travel insurance policy. Some insurers, including Admiral, offer optional add-ons for expensive electronic devices. Our gadget travel insurance upgrade covers tech such as cameras, mobile phones, tablets, computers and games consoles when you’re travelling.
Another option is to arrange cover for valuables through your home insurance. Since you need cover for these items all year round and not just when you go on holiday, it could be beneficial to insure them with the rest of your home contents. If this is the route you decide to take, make sure that the valuables you’re insuring are covered when you’re away from home – some providers will require you to upgrade your insurance for this.