Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Carousel Blues

Here’s a not so fun fact – did you know that every hour around 3000 items of luggage are lost by the world’s combined airline companies? That’s 3000 items, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

With most international airports continuing to advance in leaps and bounds when it comes to technology and general efficiency-enhancement, you’d think that instances of lost luggage would be rare in 2011 – dwindled down until they’re but an urban legend that’s oft retold but never actually experienced (“well, one of my cousin’s friends once……”). Yet, every new day brings thousands of fresh tales of hearts sinking by the carousel, hours passing in baggage reclaim and entire holidays spent in one pair of shorts and a rotation of souvenir t-shirts.

In order to save you the hassle and heartache, we’ve compiled a list of preventative measures, as well as tips for the unlucky souls who find their meticulously-packed bags lost or delayed.

Make your mark: Use secure luggage tags to record your name and details such as phone number, email and physical address. If you really like erring on the side of caution then feel free to also scrawl this information all over the luggage itself.

Get loud: It may not be as stylish but brightly coloured or patterned luggage is much easier to identify than plain old black. Learn to love leopard print.

Take some holiday snaps: Of your bag, that is. May seem OTT but having a photo of your belongings or at least a note of its size, colour, brand etc will be helpful if you find yourself having to explain it while you’re tired, stressed out and suddenly desperate for a strong drink.

A stitch in time....: Windows shut? Check. Appliances off? Check. Passport? Check. Ticket? Check. Selection of impractical shoes that you know you shouldn’t even be bringing? Check. That period of time just prior to leaving home for the airport always takes a bit longer than anticipated but (if you ever want to see those shoes again) it’s important to not leave check-in until the last minute. Almost-missing-the-flight check-ins are more likely to result in actually-missing-the-flight luggage.

Don't linger a little longer: Once you get off the plane head directly to the luggage carousel – do not pass go. Nothing in arrivals is that exciting and you don’t need to use the bathroom that badly. Just think that, while you’re taking your sweet time, some random could already be walking off with your belongings.

Don’t be shy:
As soon as you realise that any of your luggage is damaged or missing go to your airline's lost luggage counter. Although you’ll probably be feeling/upset/murderous it’s important to stay calm – polite but assertive is much more effective than screaming and swearing, particularly when it comes to jaded airline staff.

Track, trace and wait: The first course of action airline staff will take is to try and track your luggage using your baggage identification stub (this is that little printed tag you’ve no doubt already thrown away. Yeah, do not throw this away). Failing that you’ll be asked to fill out a form. Again, do not throw this out – if it turns out your bag has disappeared into the ether you will be wanting this. In good news: most lost bags turn up within 48 hours and are delivered to your home or hotel. In bad news: if your bag still hasn’t turned up after several days then it’s probably not going to. In this case you’ll need to contact the airline to start the lost baggage claim process.

Money, money, money: In most cases you will be entitled to compensation from the airline if your bag is damaged, delayed or lost. An airline's liability limit varies according to two international treaties - the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions – but generally the limit is around USD1500 (cold comfort if you’re a fan of designer clothing/expensive gadgets). Check your carrier's website for specifics and, should you need compensation, be specific and thorough when listing missing items.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing: If you’ve already lost your luggage then this piece of advice won’t help you, however, for future reference, hold onto your receipts (for clothing, cameras, electronics etc) as most airlines will ask for receipts for each item of lost luggage.

Make yourself known: Here’s the thing - airlines generally don’t enjoy giving away money and thus will often be less than helpful in your quest for compensation. This is the kind of situation that a certain phrase involving a “dog” and a “bone” was coined for. Call, often. Write emails, write letters and demand answers......do this to the point where the airline staff recognise your voice, can type your email address from memory and are familiar with your lunch choices, work woes and the achievements of your children.

Or you could just take everything carry-on.

The biggest culprit for lost luggage is none other than Heathrow
Airport. Now that you know how to come out unscathed, get onto Heathrow Airport car rental here.

Luggage pic by Linda DuBose via Stock.xchng

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