Ever had that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when the solitary suitcase left on the carousel isn’t yours?  The other passengers have left to start their adventure, holiday, or business trip – and one of them has taken your case with them…

This happened to me two weeks ago.  I’d have understood if my case hadn’t been twice the size and weight of the abandoned one or if it hadn’t had a striking blue and red label on the handle.  But it was, it did, and my heart sank.

So what to do?  My partner dashed through to see if he could catch the culprit before they left the airport.   I headed for the lost luggage desk, baggage receipt at the ready.

I filled in a form giving a description of my case and was issued with a receipt and told they’d ring me if it turned up – to add insult to injury I’d have to return to the airport to collect it.   A 75 minute, €50, taxi transfer from the airport – each way – I was not a happy Travelbunny.   On leaving the arrivals hall you can’t go back in so, on a whim, I took the details off the luggage tag on the remaining case before I left – I’m so glad I did.  Once ‘on the other side’ we hung around for a bit not quite sure what to do next. We had a look at our insurance, had a rant and then had a flash of inspiration!  We had the name from the ‘wrong’ case, the airline had a desk right in the airport – maybe they could contact the owner.  Ana, on the desk couldn’t have been more helpful, she checked the passenger list and came up with a contact number, which she rang.  After a couple of tries someone answered.  Ana explained that ‘he’d taken the wrong case’ could he please return it and collect the correct luggage. Forty minutes later, to my relief, I had my suitcase back, intact.

If I hadn’t taken the name from the other suitcase I don’t think I’d have seen my luggage again and I’ll never be sure if it was taken deliberately or was a genuine error.  However, here’s some tips on how to avoid losing your luggage:-

  • Add your contact details to your case, inside and out.  A mobile number or e-mail will suffice.
  • Attach something colourful and eye-catching or a bright luggage strap – so many black suitcases look exactly the same.  Remove old airline labels.
  • Make a list of the contents – boring but useful for an insurance claim.
  • Pack all valuables in your hand luggage – cameras, computers, medication, wallets,  jewellery, passports, as well as confirmation numbers and itineraries.
  • At the airport make sure the person who checks-in your bags gives you a baggage receipt – and keep it safe.  You’ll need this to get your baggage back should there be a problem.  Your luggage can be tracked via the bar code…

         And if the carousel’s stopped and your bags still haven’t appeared…

  • If it seems a number of passengers’ luggage hasn’t appeared it is possible the bags weren’t loaded on the plane in the first place. Make a note of where the lost luggage desk for your airline is – at least you’ll be first in the queue when it becomes clear there is a problem.  Better still avoid last-minute check-ins and tight connections – both common reasons for delayed or lost luggage.
  • At the lost luggage desk get a copy of any forms you fill in and take names and contact details of the handling agent. and if it’s a ‘case of mistaken identity’ and someone’s taken your case in place of their own make a note of the name and details from the airline label on the swapped baggage – it is possible that your airline can help find your bag for you.
  • Before you leave the airport, make sure you know how to check on your bag’s status; some airlines have an online system while others will give you a phone number to call for updates.
  • And finally, pack a change of clothes suitable for your destination in your hand luggage.  At least you’ll have something to wear if your hold luggage is delayed and you can kick back and relax while you’re waiting..