Losing your luggage overseas


Lost your bags: what happens next?

“It’ll never happen to me.” Yet there you stand – it’s 3am in an exotic airport with just the clothes on your back and your carry-on, eyes glued to the baggage carousel in silent desperation. It’s happened to you. You’ve lost your luggage.

This unfortunate scenario has been a reality for hundreds of thousands of travellers in recent times . Demand for international travel has soared as countries around the world reopen their borders following COVID-19 restrictions, leaving airlines and airports struggling to keep pace.

More passengers and fewer employees to service them have created a perfect storm for mishaps, with cases of lost luggage reaching historic highs. In fact, the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report said US airlines mishandled over 220,000 bags in April 2022 alone!

So what should you do if you lose your luggage overseas? There are immediate steps you should take if you’ve lost your bags, which will give you the best chance at either a happy reunion or a successful insurance claim.


Lost/delayed baggage and COVID-19

We understand how inconvenient it can be when you are away for a trip – especially one that you have been waiting for since before the pandemic – and you reach your destination, but your luggage doesn’t! SCTI is here for you, with cover for lost, stolen or delayed baggage. You can find out more on what we cover, and how to claim, here.


How to know if you have lost your bags

If your luggage doesn’t appear on the baggage carousel, don’t panic. With busier airports comes longer waiting times, including luggage collection. Bags are often offloaded from planes in waves, so don’t fret if a handful of your fellow passengers are left waiting while the carousel has seemingly run dry.

If you’ve given the carousel more than enough time, it may be the case that your bags have been placed on the next flight, at the wrong airport, or at the worst, lost. But before jumping to these conclusions, scan the other carousels in the baggage collection area in case it’s been diverted to the wrong belt. This is particularly common with oversized items.

Some airline apps and websites have a feature that allows you to input the baggage information you received at check in to track your luggage, which can provide more certainty on your situation.

You may also invest in a tracking device and place it your luggage, you can then track it via your Find My Phone application for Apple and Find My Device application for android phones.

What should you do if the airline has lost your bags?

If your luggage has been lost, delayed or damaged, it is considered to have been “mishandled” by the airline. Regardless, if your bags don’t arrive on the carousel, your first port of call should always be the baggage services counters at the airport.

Here are the three key steps to follow when reporting lost luggage at the airport.

How to report your missing luggage at the airport

Step 1: Find the right baggage services counter

At larger airports, each airline will operate its own baggage services counter where you can file a claim for your lost luggage. It’s the responsibility of your final carrier to deliver your bags to you, so it’s important that you find the desk of the airline that operated your final flight.

For example, if you flew out of Sydney on a Qantas flight, then transferred to a United plane, visit the United baggage counter.

At smaller airports, there may be a single baggage services counter that works on behalf of multiple airlines.

Step 2: File your lost luggage claim

File a claim at the desk, where an attendant will issue you with a case reference number and take down your contact information, so they can get in touch when it (hopefully) arrives.

You’ll be asked to provide the baggage tag you received when checking your luggage before your flight, so be sure to keep this in a safe place like inside your passport. It’s a good idea to be as descriptive as possible about your luggage, such as the colour, brand, shape or any identifying features of your bags.

Remember to note down the phone number of the baggage services desk so you can stay in two-way communication while your luggage is returned to you.

Step 3: Ask about compensation and entitlements

Airlines each have their own policies when it comes to mishandled bags. Some will provide monetary compensation if your luggage isn’t returned to you after 24 hours, others will provide you with essential items over the counter, others will offer a daily cash reimbursement and some airlines even offer a boost of frequent flyer miles for your trouble.

Ask about your airline’s policy while filing your baggage claim and what you’re eligible to receive. Remember to clarify whether your bags will be couriered to your address once ready.


When should you get in touch with SCTI?

In a worst-case scenario where your airline is unable to help in retrieving your bags, rest assured that there is cover for baggage and personal items under our International Comprehensive single trip policy, International Comprehensive annual multi-trip policy or Domestic policy. This includes help to buy personal items of clothing and essentials if your bags are delayed, misplaced or misdirected for 12 hours or more.

Should you find that you do need to claim for delayed baggage under your policy, the items you purchase must be for essential clothing and personal effects, such as toiletries and clothing.

The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of any article.

This article may contain hyperlinks to other websites owned or operated by third parties, or references to third party products or services. SCTI isn’t responsible for, and makes no recommendation about, the content or accuracy of any third party website, or for the suitability or performance of any product or service. The inclusion of a link in this article doesn’t imply that SCTI endorses the website or third party product/service.


What you need to know

This page includes some information about our products but, as with all insurance policies, terms and conditions apply. For our terms and conditions (including information about exclusions, excesses and sub limits) we recommend you read the relevant Financial Services Guide (FSG), Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) to ensure our travel insurance products are right for you.  

You can find the relevant documents here: International Comprehensive, Annual Multi-trip, International Medical Only, Working Overseas, Domestic

What information do you need to make an insurance claim for lost or delayed luggage?

If you’re making a claim under your International Comprehensive policy for delayed luggage, our claims team will need to see the receipts for essential clothing and personal effects that you purchased under our delay cover.

If the worst case happens and your luggage never reaches your destination, our friendly claims team will need information such as:

  • The baggage delay report from the airline or airport
  • Proof of ownership/value of your luggage
  • Documentation from the airline which explains whether they reimbursed you or not
  • How much you were reimbursed for
  • Any and all receipts of the items that were in your luggage.

A lot of stores can reprint receipts for you, but we do understand that you may not have a receipt for every single item, like your underwear and socks. Just send us as many receipts and as much documentation as you can, and our claims team will take a look at it all.


How to reduce the chance of the airline losing your luggage

Of course, the best way to manage a lost luggage situation is to avoid one in the first place. While it may seem out of your control, there are a few simple strategies you can use to reduce the chance of the airline losing your luggage.

Tip 1: Avoid connecting flights if possible

Adding a connecting flight to your itinerary increases the risk of your bags being mishandled, especially if it’s a tight connection. With airports and airlines struggling with demand from passengers, even two-hour layovers can now be considered risky. Put simply, transferring your bag from one aircraft to another isn’t as fast or as easy as it used to be.

It’s not always possible to find a direct flight to your destination, however think twice if you’re tempted by a slightly cheaper fare that includes multiple layovers. Not only will a simple itinerary reduce overall bag handling, it’ll be better for your travel stress levels too.

Tip 2: Keep a well-stocked carry-on bag

If the unexpected happens and your checked luggage is mishandled, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Having essential items in your carry-on luggage can be a saviour to make your claim process with the airline more comfortable. Pack your carry-on bag with items such as:

  • Toiletries including a toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste and shower gel
  • Spare underwear, socks and t-shirt
  • Pyjamas
  • Prescription medications.

Tip 3: Pack valuable items in your carry-on luggage

When it comes to reimbursements by your airline or travel insurer, expensive items may not be covered unless they’re packed in your carry-on bag. For example, we can’t cover you for valuable items like cameras, laptops, e-readers, phones, bluetooth headphones and tablets if they’re lost with your checked bags.

We know that spending a stressful time waiting in the airport for lost luggage reports to be filed isn’t how you imagined your holiday playing out. When the unexpected happens, we want you to know we’re here for support, which is why we offer 24/7 Emergency Assistance. Feel free to call the team anytime on +61 2 9191 1180.