Try these steps if your checked luggage gets damaged

Your airline is obligated to correct their wrongs at your service—even when it relates to damaging your luggage.

When taking flights, checking luggage can be a cause of massive anxiety all on its own. Delayed baggage, lost bags, opened bags, and even stolen belongings are all unfortunate but common scenarios that come with air travel—but what about damaged baggage? What are you to do if your bags are returned to you in a manner that was not the way you sent them off? How do you get recourse for this type of nightmare?

damaged luggage
Photo: AdobeStock

Fortunately, there are remedies to handle these cases (pun intended). After years of complaints of damaged belongings in airport baggage claims, the aviation industry has implemented guidelines and services to ease passenger strife. When it comes to any major malfunction that occurs while your bags are in the airline’s possession, the airline is obligated to take accountability—but only if it falls within the guidelines in place. 

Regular wear-and-tear—including scratches, scuffs, stains, dents, and dirtiness—are the unfortunate realities of checked baggage that are common to happen between the time you hand it off and it returns on the conveyor belt. Accordingly, airlines will not take responsibility in the form of reparations for these scenarios. However, if you are dealing with serious damage, such as your suitcase being completely broken, wheels missing, handles being broken, visible holes, and other major physical issues, your airline should handle these mishaps. 

The fact is, more than 87 percent of passengers don’t know their rights when using the services of an airline, so they don’t typically report mishaps like these. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they aren’t available to you. There is an entire department created just for these types of cases and waiting to assist you. The next time your luggage is damaged while in an airline’s care, follow the steps below to receive some sort of reparation, which can include the purchase of a whole new suitcase of your choosing, maybe even of higher value than your original piece and sent to you within days.

Contact your airline’s baggage claim department and submit a claim

Be sure to report a claim to your airline’s baggage claim department of the damage to your luggage within 24 hours of receiving your luggage from the checked baggage area. While time-consuming, it is easier and more effective to do on-site at the airport when you first receive your luggage. Check out your airline’s policies for more information. 

Keep Your Receipts

Here’s a pre-travel tip: Knowing the value of your luggage is one thing, but having proof of receipt is a sure way to speed up the claim process. Also, keep your airline tags on your luggage rather than immediately ripping them off, as they act as a form of receipt of transportation as well.

Take Notes

Take notes when speaking to a representative during the claims process, including the rep’s name, any pertinent information, and what you were promised once your damaged luggage was analyzed. On the phone, it is common to be passed along to different departments and people when dealing with issues, so also jot down titles, numbers or extensions, and times you were connected with representatives. Stay on top of the claims process.

Know What You Deserve

If you know the value of your bag and can access the damage that has been done, don’t settle for a small favor when you can be reimbursed or delivered an entirely new bag from the choices the airline offers. Just remember to stay calm and courteous throughout the claims process—but again, fight for what you deserve most reasonably.

Noel Cymone Walker

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.

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