Luggage lost during a flight

Has your luggage been lost during a flight? We will explain what you should do now and provide information on your right to compensation.


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Luggage lost during a flight: what do I have to do?

It's a nightmare scenario: you're on your way to a much-deserved vacation, and once you arrive at your destination, you are waiting in vain in the baggage claim area for your suitcase to arrive. So, what are you supposed to do if your suitcase travels somewhere else than you? We have summarized the most important steps:

Step 1: go to the "Lost and Found" counter

Usually, there is a "lost and found" luggage counter in the entrance area of every airport, where suitcases, bags, and other lost property are deposited. First, ask the staff there if your suitcase has been found.

The easiest way to locate lost luggage is to use the baggage tag you received when you checked in your luggage. It allows airport staff to track where a suitcase is at any given moment.

Tip: Locating luggage with GPS trackers

More and more travelers are using GPS trackers to locate their luggage. The small, disc-shaped mini-transmitters send out a Bluetooth signal that can be used to determine the location of the trackers. That makes it easy to trace a piece of luggage that's been left behind or loaded onto the wrong plane. Among the most popular GPS trackers are the Apple AirTags and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTags.

Step 2: inform your airline

If your suitcase cannot be located at the "lost and found" counter, the time has come for you to inform your airline about the loss of your luggage. As part of the notification of loss, you will need to provide an address where you want the lost luggage to be sent. There are usually no additional charges for this service.

If you have booked a package holiday, you must inform your tour operator about the loss of luggage as well as the airline.

Woman at airport luggage belt

Step 3: buy replacement equipment

If your luggage is lost on the outbound flight and it takes some time until your luggage can be forwarded (or the suitcase may not even arrive at the vacation destination), then you have the right to get replacement equipment at the expense of the airline. However, in case of baggage loss on the return flight, no replacement equipment will be provided.

Find out about the conditions of your airline before buying the replacement equipment because there is no universal regulation. In most cases, a budget is specified to which you must adhere. Furthermore, as a passenger, you usually have to pay for the equipment in advance. Later, you can have the costs reimbursed by the airline. You should therefore keep all receipts of purchase!

Replacement equipment usually includes necessary clothing and toiletries, such as:

  • T-shirt / sweater
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Pajamas
  • Shampoo
  • Hairbrush
  • Toothbrush

Note: The items purchased should be appropriate to the type of trip you are taking. So, if you have booked a beach vacation, the airline will not reimburse you for a winter jacket. The items should also be purchased in the actual quantity you require. For example, you do not need 20 pairs of socks for a 5-day trip.

Tip: ESTA for USA travel

Are you planning a vacation in America? The practical ESTA authorization allows travelers from the 41 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program to enter the USA with ease and without a visa. Most ESTA permits are valid for two years and allow you to enter the United States multiple times for up to 90 days at a time.

→ Apply for ESTA now

How much compensation will I receive for lost luggage?

If your luggage is damaged or lost during a flight and can no longer be found, although you have reported the loss, you are entitled to a compensation payment. The maximum amount of the claim is € 1,400 per person (not per piece of luggage!).

The airline must reimburse the original price for verifiably new items. For used items, you will be paid a current value. It is best to take a photo of the contents of the suitcase before the trip. This way, you can better reconstruct what was in the suitcase in the event of a total loss of luggage.

If you want to insure a sum higher than € 1,400, you can do so when booking for a fee. However, you can also take out private baggage insurance.

Compensation for package holidays

If you have booked a package holiday and your luggage is lost during the flight, you must report this immediately to the tour guide, travel agency, or tour operator on site. On package holidays, a loss of luggage counts as a deficiency, and therefore, you can claim a reduction of the total price.

The amount of the price reduction depends on your travel provider and on the number of vacation days you have to spend without the contents of your suitcase. If the luggage is missing for the duration of the entire vacation, up to 50 % of the total travel price can be refunded.

Suitcase at the airport

Which items are not reimbursed in case of luggage loss?

Valuable and medically necessary items are usually exempt from airline liability in the event of baggage loss, as they should always be carried in hand luggage.

This category includes, for example:

  • Cash
  • Bonds
  • Jewelry
  • Laptops
  • Cameras
  • Medication
  • Medical instruments (e.g., a blood glucose meter)

Also, the airline may refuse to pay for fragile items that are improperly packed and stowed in checked baggage if they are damaged.

Forms and deadlines in case of luggage loss

If your luggage is lost or damaged during a flight, it is best to fill out a so-called Property Irregularity Report (PIR) while still at the airport, more precisely at your airline's counter. The form will help you later to prove the problems that occurred during your flight. If there is no open counter at your destination airport, you can also find the PIR form on the website of your airline.

Attention: Filling out the PIR form does not replace reporting the loss. This must be done additionally with your airline or tour operator.

Please observe the following deadlines to ensure that your compensation claim is received on time:

  • PIR form: submission no later than 2 days after the flight
  • Damaged luggage: written notification within 7 days at the latest
  • Lost luggage: written notification within 21 days at the latest

If your airline does not respond to your notice of loss and/or does not pay you compensation, you have two years to file a lawsuit against the airline to enforce your claim.

Tips for your USA flight

On vacation, you can quickly find yourself in an unexpected situation. Do you want to be prepared for anything on your next journey to the USA? Then take a look at our other travel guides:

You are now well equipped for all possible situations. The only thing you still need is the ESTA travel authorization for the USA and off you go: we wish you a pleasant and trouble-free flight!

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