July 19, 2013

July 19, 2013
What to Do When Your Suitcase Is Missing

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Friday and we have almost made it through another work week. I hope you have been having a beary safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Today we have a dentist appointment at Nova and tomorrow we are doing an appearance at a fund raiser for Pet Project of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Because of doing events, Dab the AIDS Bear and I travel often and unfortunately when you fly sooner or later one of your checked pieces of luggage is going to get either temporarily or permanently lost. So what do you do?

You're alone at the baggage carousel. The same three bags are going round and round, and none of them is yours. Don't panic. The airlines claim that some 98 percent of all lost luggage is returned (eventually), and they really do have ways to track and find stray bags. That said, the following strategies will help you prepare for (or handle) the worst if it happens.

1. Research Your Airline
Some people wouldn't think of booking a hotel without first checking its online reviews. So why not do the same with an airline? Sites such as Skytrax let you see how your airline stacks up in terms of customer service, among other things, so you know what to expect if it loses your luggage. In addition, on your airline's website, research lost-luggage liability policies. For instance, most airlines won't reimburse you for valuables in checked bags. These include jewelry, heirlooms, money, and computers or cameras. Leave these items at home or pack them in a carry-on. Some travel-insurance policies cover lost luggage; read these carefully, though, to be sure they're really worth the cost.

2. Take a Checked-Bag Inventory
Make a detailed list of items packed in checked bags. This will come in handy if your bags are lost and you file a claim with the airline. Note every article of clothing and all accessories, shoes and personal items as well as the brands, colors and sizes. Also write down the brand, color, size and distinguishing features of your luggage so that you can readily give the airline a description. Alternatively, take pictures of your bags using a cellphone or camera that you plan to carry on board. Speaking of distinguishing features, make your luggage stand out: place some brightly colored tape on to its exterior or mark it with a colorful permanent pen. This prevents people whose bags are similar to yours from accidentally grabbing the wrong one and helps the airlines better identify your bag if it's lost.

3. Pack for the Worst Case
If you're traveling with another person, and you're both checking bags, pack one of your outfits in your companion's bag and vice versa. It's rare that both bags will get lost, and, this way, the party whose bag is lost at least has a change of clothes. Alternatively (or in addition), pack a change of clothes (or at least a change of underwear) in your carry-on. Put a copy of your travel itinerary including hotel contact information into each checked bag. Finally, be sure that your luggage tags have hotel contact information, not just your home information.

4. Follow Airline Best Practices for Check-In
Watch the gate agent adhere the baggage-check tag to your suitcase. Confirm (with the agent if need be) that both it and your claim check have the proper three-letter destination-airport code. Take a photo of your baggage-claim ticket, in case you misplace it. To be extra careful, use a baggage-tagging service, which, for a fee, supplies tags with unique serial numbers linked to you in an online database. Finally, while in line at security, make a mental list of all the things you'll put in the bins or on the conveyor belt, so you're less likely to forget something on the other side.

5. Deal With Lost Luggage Immediately
Remember don't panic. First, look around: your bags might be near your carousel or on or near another one. If not, go to the airline representative counter with your baggage claim, boarding pass and luggage description/photo. Breathe deeply, stay calm and be polite. Some airlines can tell you where your bag is (or where they think it is). It might even be on the next flight from your point of origin, in which case you might want to wait. Regardless, do not leave the airport before filling out a lost-luggage report and getting (1) a copy of the report; (2) an airline contact name and number so you can follow up; and (3) details, in writing, of how to file a claim and when the airline will reimburse you for essentials you purchase (save receipts) until your lost luggage is found or for all items if it's lost for good.

6. Follow Up
On check-in, inform hotel staff that the airline has lost your luggage and will deliver it later. A concierge might help with follow-up calls to the airline; regardless, be sure that there's follow up. Also, some hotels provide sundries to tide you over. If, in the end, you feel the airline treated you unfairly, file a complaint with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division. And, going forward, consider flying only with carry-on luggage.

Hope these tips help if you ever find that one of your pieces of luggage has been misplaced or lost and that you have a beary safe and great Friday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab