Airline Lost Baggage

Page Updated: May 2020

There are over 4 million pieces of lost baggage per year with airline travel. Once your luggage disappears on the conveyor belt at check-in, there is not a lot you can do if it goes astray in the airport 'machinery' but there are a few things that can be done to prevent loss from the collection carousel or make finding your bags easier.

To Minimise Chances Of Lost Baggage

  • Ensure you have adequate travel insurance for any loss of property. Definitely insure your firearm(s) and scopes for theft, damage and loss.
  • Avoid late check-ins and tight flight connections - these are common causes of delayed and lost baggage.
  • Label your bags clearly with your name inside and out. This will make tracking your bags easier if they go missing and will also minimise the chance of another person taking your luggage from the carousel in error. Putting a travel itinerary in the bag will help an airline locate you.
  • Make a list of the baggage contents so if you make a claim you don't forget anything of value.
  • If you have bought new items of value or even new not-so-valuable items like clothes for your trip, keep the receipts for a possible claim. This includes receipts for new luggage itself, which may get badly damaged en route.
  • Take photographs of the bag - inside, with contents and an external view. If the bag does get lost it may help identify it.
  • Make sure you remove all old airline tags and travel labels.
  • Lock the bag securely. If it does need to be opened by security staff, they may break the lock and should put a note inside to that effect.
  • Alternatively use TSA approved locks so security staff can open it, if necessary and re-lock it.
  • Do not leave the check-in counter until you see your bags are tagged correctly with the 3 letter destination airport code and you have the matching stubs.
  • Remove or secure all loose handles or straps to prevent the bag getting hooked up on the conveyor belt system.
  • Get to the baggage claim area promptly and don't leave your baggage going round on the conveyor belt for ages.

Lost Or Delayed Airline Baggage

Report it immediately before leaving the terminal building. Complete a lost luggage form, keep a copy and contact details to be be able to follow up on the problem.

  • If your baggage didn't make it on your flight, it is likely to be on the next one. Depending on the flight schedule to your destination it may take a few hours or a few days for the baggage to be reunited with you.
  • If your baggage got mis-routed and arrived at another airport it will take longer to retrieve and return it to you.
  • In general, it is easier to get your found luggage back to you in a southern African hunting country - the bag should be taken by road to your hunting area.
  • In a remote area, you'll have to rely on a charter flight coming in the direction of your hunting area, who may drop it off. Alternatively you could pay for another air charter to bring it in or leave it at the airport, collecting it on your way out.
  • If you are without clothing, toiletries or other hunting kit, you can often buy replacements locally or the outfitter may be able to provide you with some.
  • Even though it is always distressing to be separated from your baggage, this is not an uncommon event so a good outfitter or PH can always make a plan to get your hunt going and get your luggage returned to you.
  • It's notoriously difficult to get money out of an airline but if you have expenses due to the baggage delay, keep the receipts for a claim.

Lost Or Delayed Firearms/Ammo

Your firearm not appearing at your destination airport is every hunter's nightmare. To minimise the risk of your firearm going astray...make sure you check-in extra early, don't have any tight connection times, choose to use reputable airlines (especially domestic), join 'frequent flyer' systems to get better customer service and be very pleasant and polite with airline staff. Consider using a GPS/GSM/Bluetooth luggage tracker in your guncase.

  • If your your rifles are delayed en route, the outfitter should be able to provide you with a spare rifle to get hunting until your guncase is found and re-united with you.
  • However some countries will need you to clear the firearms through customs in person. This can cause you to lose precious hunting time, either waiting at the airport for the next flight or returning another day. Alternatively you could stick to hunting with the loaned rifle and collect your firearms on your way home.
  • If the bag containing your ammunition is delayed, you should be able to get ammunition locally fairly easily in southern Africa. It is not so easy if you have an unusual calibre or if you are hunting in a remote region.
  • If your firearms and/or ammo appear to be definitely lost (rather than delayed) report it to the airline immediately and push hard to get them to find them. Report the loss to the police and file an claim as soon as possible.

Unrecovered Lost Airline Baggage

If your airline well and truly loses your bags, make sure you get a written claim for damages. This is a different form than the 'missing luggage' form.

  • Liability for lost baggage will vary from airline to airline so check the their website for specific details.
  • You may need to produce receipts to prove the value of the lost items.
  • Most airlines will not compensate you for anything of value in checked lost baggage which they advise to be carried as hand luggage.
  • Your travel insurance is the best way to recover any losses.
  • If you cannot get satisfaction from an airline, file a complaint by contacting the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division (US passengers).

Stolen Baggage Contents

If your baggage has been tampered with and items are missing, report it immediately to your airline agent in the baggage claim area and to the police once outside the baggage claim area.

Baggage Or Contents

If your baggage has been damaged badly (not minor damage) en route, report it to the airline customer agent so it may be inspected. They may pay for some types of repair if you produce a receipt.

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