Avoid Lost Airline Luggage: Why You Shouldn't Check in Your Bag

I just got back from two fantastico weeks in Italy -- and not one of the airlines I flew lost a single piece of my luggage.

Of course, I didn't give them the chance.

I put everything I needed in a roller-board and a small "personal item" sized carryon -- and so did my wife and daughter. It can be done, if you pack lightly. And if your spouse is still skeptical, you might suggest that the huge bags she wants to bring will probably cause those Venetian water taxis to tip over.

If this sounds nutty to you, well -- I've just seen too many of my friends who've had vacations ruined due to lost luggage. It's still a problem, even though the airlines seem to be getting better at it. Note I said "seem." That's because the Department of Transportation statistics only tell you how many bags are "mishandled" per 1,000 passengers. They don't say how many of those thousand passengers actually checked a bag.

Packing bags

We do know the number of checked bags is declining, thanks to luggage fees and, the visual evidence. I mean, face it, placing a bag in an overhead bin these days is like shoving a 28-pound turkey into a toaster oven -- maybe it can be done, but it sure won't be pretty.

And don't forget all those flights the airlines have dropped in recent years. Frankly, the loss of those millions of seats means we're not stressing the baggage system like we use to and fewer passengers equals fewer bags which equals fewer angry e-mails to airlines.

Andrew Price knows all about angry e-mails. He is currently head of the International Air Transport Association's Baggage Improvement Program and according to the Wall Street Journal, he's personally experienced lost bags during his first year on the job. Would you believe seven times?

But he doesn't mind. He's got a secret.

For more air travel news and insights visit Rick's blog at: http://farecompare.com

Price's secret is a "generous" travel insurance policy. Now there are many travel policies out there, covering a wide array of trip disasters including medical problems, canceled flights and yes, lost bags. But, these policies can be a little pricey (depending on your coverage, the price of your trip, your age and other factors) and reimbursement for a lost bag could be as little as $500 a bag -- or much more. You will have to determine how quickly your policy will get you what you need, and how much (or how little) a hassle it will be. In other words, read the fine print.

Lost Airline Luggage

But wait a minute -- don't the airlines give you as much as $3,000 a bag?

Some do. But read your carrier's fine print as well.

United's "Missing Property Questionnaire," for example, states that the airline will not be held responsible "for loss of money, jewelry, cameras, electronic/video/photographic equipment, heirlooms" and on and on. Sounds like your old Lands' End polo shirts will pass muster, but I'm not sure what else will.

One other thing: what happens if you think you have a legit claim against an airline, and you get zip?

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