Imagine it’s a day or two after your wedding. You’re basking in the afterglow of your perfect wedding weekend, and you’re trying not to check Facebook obsessively to see all of the photos that your friends have been posting. Now you’re en route to your dream honeymoon location. You took a sleeping pill before you boarded your plane, so the next thing you know you’re landing at your destination. When you arrive at the baggage claim, it seems like it’s taking forever for your bags to appear because you just can’t wait to check into your hotel. The crowd around your baggage carousel begins to thin, and fewer and fewer pieces of luggage come down the shoot. Eventually, the carousel comes to a halt, and you still haven’t spotted your bags. Then the reality sinks in: your luggage is not there.
Okay, let me stop myself right there before I cause any panic attacks. I know TONS of people who have gone on honeymoons, and literally NONE of them lost their luggage during those vacations. However, I unfortunately do know of this happening to plenty of people (myself included*) during non-honeymoon trips, so although it’s an unlikely scenario, it’s still important to know what to do if it happens to you.
First things first, either you or your spouse needs to file a report with the airline to let them know your luggage is missing while the other one waits at the carousel in case any other bags from your flight were just really delayed. Make sure to get a file locator number from the airline, too!
If the airline doesn’t have an immediate solution for you, it’s time to whip out your smartphones and, as your mom says, “get on the Twitter.” Have I personally done this before? Nope, the last time an airline lost my bag was before iPhones and Twitter were around, but after reading travel guru Wendy Perrin’s blog post about her own recent experience with lost luggage in Ecuador, I would definitely do it if it happens to me again. (Oh god, please don’t let it happen to me again!)
Wendy didn’t write a mean, aggro tweet about how so-and-so airlines is the absolute worst for losing her luggage. Instead, she sent out the following simple tweet: “@AmericanAir Arrived in Quito but checked bag did not. EWR>MIA>UIO. Filed claim at UIO. What else can I do to expedite luggage recovery?”
After several hours and lots of back and forth with the airline via Twitter, Wendy’s lost luggage fiasco had a happy ending. Twitter, of course, is a public forum that has the potential to reach millions of people, and airlines do not want to be badmouthed in front of such large audiences. Wendy said that even at 1:00 AM, she received better and more useful information from the airline via Twitter within three minutes than she was able to get after an hour at the airport.
So, aside from using Twitter, what else can we learn from her story? She says the answer isn’t to never check your baggage – that’s just unrealistic, especially when going on multi-week vacations. But when you do need to check your luggage, make sure to carry on your valuables and all essentials such as travel documents, medication, contact lenses, and maybe a change of underwear. Another tip she gave was to share luggage with your spouse – in other words, don’t put all of your stuff in your own suitcase and all of your spouse’s stuff in his/her suitcase. The odds that just one of your bags will be lost is much greater than both of your bags getting lost. And finally, if your luggage does go missing, don’t forget to get your “file locator number” from the airline when you file your report.
* US Airways temporarily lost a suitcase of mine during a trip to London many years ago. Since I wanted to be comfy during the long flight, I was wearing sweatpants, Uggs, and a North Face fleece – not exactly the outfit I planned on wearing out in public during this vacation. Of course Aaron’s suitcase arrived fine so he was appropriately dressed, but mine wasn’t delivered until four days later! London is an expensive city and I was a grad student who couldn’t afford to just go out and buy several new outfits, plus the airline kept promising that my suitcase would be delivered “soon” and I naively believed them. Needless to say, I definitely did not look my best during the first half of that trip, and no I will not post any of those photos on the blog. However, I refuse to fly while wearing sweatpants now.