HELP! My luggage was delayed
Have you ever experienced it? That sickening feeling when the airport luggage carousel goes around for the third time and yet there is no sign of your luggage? You notice that the number of fellow passengers around the carousel become fewer as they collect their luggage, leaving you on your own as you watch the conveyer belt turn and then you become panicky…your luggage is missing!
Thoughts of how you could have prevented this situation go through your mind and questions like, “How am I going to explain this to my client? What will the cost implications of this predicament be? Who is responsible? What are my rights? Where and how will I claim for damages?” and “What can I claim for?” flash through your mind simultaneously. It is a feeling I do not wish upon any traveller or fellow Event Manager, but unfortunately it is part of our reality and it happens more often than we want to know – an absolute nightmare that could possibly ruin a holiday or an important business trip.
I am sure you would understand that an event’s success depends on so many factors, but specifically on the timeous delivery of luggage and equipment. In this case it was equipment and my event could not start without equipment. The fact that it was an international flight made it even more challenging and then there was also the issue of dealing with individuals who were not motivated to take initiative in providing excellent customer service.
Here is a tip: Be proactive and thorough about recovering your luggage and do not – under any circumstances – accept that it is a process that will automatically be executed and that your luggage will automatically be loaded onto the next available flight. THIS IS NOT THE CASE!
I want to share with you the following guidelines, which I hope may help you, should you ever need to track or manage your luggage’s progress during the recovering process.
Report your delayed or lost luggage immediately
There are seven-day window periods in which you can report damaged, delayed or lost luggage. The best action to take is to head to your airline as soon as possible, preferably while still at the airport, but should this not be possible, there is a 21 day grace period which allows you to get all the paperwork in order and to submit it.
When reporting about your luggage, you will be requested to fill out a claim form on which you specify all the details about your luggage and indicate if it was lost, damaged or stolen. Make sure to obtain a copy of this document.
Once the paperwork is done, ensure that you request that your luggage be forwarded on the next available flight. Take down the flight numbers and flight departure times because you will need this information when you speak to the Cargo Carrier.
After reporting the situation about your luggage to your airline, make sure to make direct contact with the Cargo Carrier who is outsourced to handle your specific airline’s luggage.
- Make sure that you enquire about all other available flights and airlines for which they are cargo carriers. It might mean that your luggage will go on a completely different airline’s flight, but it might speed up the process to recover your goods.
- Make sure that you take the names down of people you speak to and ask to speak to the sales office supervisor as well as the operations manager on duty of the specific cargo carrier.
- The sales office supervisor oversees and is responsible for issuing the file number, tag number and confirmation of the flight number onto their system so that it is logged for the flight in question.
- The operations manager oversees the process of handling luggage to the aircraft and is responsible for issuing the wagon number and rush-tag number as I will indicate below.
Airline claim guidelines
Most airlines have what they call a claim guideline. In this document they stipulate what you can claim for and what the limits are. For example, SAA specifies the following in their Conditions of Carriage: South African Airways does not take responsibility for the loss of valuable items in checked luggage including money, passports or visas, computer equipment, electronic devices, cell phones, fragile items, business documents and jewellery.
The parcel number is the actual number under which your luggage is booked in on the specific flight. The parcel number is also your reference once the enquiring process regarding your luggage starts and is the number you will need to quote at the airline when you report your luggage to be missing, stolen or damaged. It sounds like common sense, right? Nowadays we use e-tickets and once your luggage is booked in you might not receive that reference number, unless stated on your ticket. Make sure that you take your parcel number down manually and keep in a safe and easily accessible place.
This is the number you will be given once you have reported your luggage as delayed or lost. The file number can be explained as follows: The first three digits will be the first three letters of the airline you are flying, followed by a fourth digit, which indicates and differentiates between lost or delayed luggage. The fifth digit is a letter indicating the airline luggage code and is followed by a sixth digit airline luggage-system number. So it might look like this: ABC5H10520
So, once you have reported your luggage and you have received your file number you need to request that your luggage is sent with the very next flight to your destination.
Luggage-wagon number followed by the flight number
I have previously stated that you cannot assume that your luggage will be loaded, once found, onto the luggage wagon which delivers the luggage to the aircraft.
All the luggage for a specific flight must be loaded approximately 30 min. before the flight departs, so if you have the departure time of the next flight, you can start to facilitate the process with the Operations Manager of the cargo carrier.
Ensure that you ask for confirmation of the number of the luggage wagon which has delivered your luggage to the aircraft and also make sure to check the flight number to ensure it is the correct flight.
Once you have a luggage-wagon number you can rest assured that your luggage will be on the next flight to its destination.
A rush-tag number will be allocated to your luggage once loaded onto a luggage wagon seeing that it was already reported as delayed or lost. The original parcel number will no longer apply. The rush-tag number is issued by the operational staff.
Conclude the process
The luggage-wagon number and the rush-tag number need to be logged on the cargo carrier’s computer system. In order to conclude the process you need to inform the sales consultants of these numbers.
Once these two numbers are logged you can rest assured that you will receive your luggage at the specified destination.
When enquiring about your luggage, you will have to quote the following numbers:
- Flight number
- File number
- Rush-tag number
I am sure that as you are reading this post you might think that these are not the duties of a normal citizen or traveller and should be done by the staff of the airline and cargo company, right?
I guess it depends on the urgency of the situation. In my case the success of an event depends on the outcome and recovery time of the luggage. I have therefore decided to facilitate the process myself so I HELPED MYSELF WHEN MY LUGGAGE WAS DELAYED!