What to do if your luggage is lost on your flight

You've packed your bags, and you've taken your flight. You're ready to enjoy your trip – until you realize that your luggage is lost. The luggage carousel has made its rounds several times, but you still can't find your bag.

Lost luggage is common, but there are steps you can take to recover your belongings or receive compensation for your loss.

Here's what to do if the airline loses your luggage:

Report your lost luggage
The first step is to report your lost luggage. Do not leave the airport without first making a claim. Head straight to the baggage claim office to get a missing baggage claim form. Make sure that you get a copy of the form before you leave.

If no one is available at the claims office, make sure that you make a verbal report and write down a note with the time of your call and the name of the person you spoke with.

Determine if your bag is truly lost
Next, determine if your bag is truly lost or just misplaced. The amount of compensation you receive will depend on whether your bag can be recovered.

In most cases, luggage is found in a day or two. Sometimes, luggage arrives on the next flight.

If your bag is lost for good, you may need to wait a week before the airline officially labels your luggage lost.

Find the right carrier to contact
Depending on your flight, finding the right carrier to contact may be difficult. For non-stop flights, you know exactly who to contact.

But if you were on a connecting flight with a few different airlines, you may be confused as to whom to contact.

Regardless of how many airlines you dealt with along the way, lost luggage is the responsibility of the carrier that flew you to your final destination. That's the carrier you need to contact.

Receive compensation for your belongings
If your bag is only lost temporarily, you're able to seek "reasonable reimbursement for expenses you incur while waiting for the delayed bag," says the DOT.

The amount of actual compensation you receive will depend on the airline.

Save all receipts of items you purchase that you'll need, such as toiletries and clothing. Don't go crazy, as the airline may not compensate you for expensive items it deems unnecessary.

If the bag is lost, you may need to negotiate with the airline to get fair compensation. Should you hire a lawyer? Probably not (unless you packed something valuable). This is not a cruise ship accident or a serious personal injury, so the compensation is negligible in most cases.

Airlines are only obligated to pay up to $3,300 per bag on domestic flights. Don't expect to get this amount for your bag. Airlines, just like insurance companies, will consider the depreciated value of your items and not their original price.

If you want to receive fair compensation, don't exaggerate your claim. If the claim appears to be suspicious, the airline may deny your claim altogether on the basis of fraud.

Airlines may offer you a cash payment or tickets for a future flight, which may appear to be more valuable than the cash. If you opt for the tickets, inquire about restrictions and black-out dates. Without careful due diligence, you may wind up with tickets you can't use.

If your bag is truly lost, the airline is also obligated to refund your baggage fee, but you need to inquire about it. The airline will likely not volunteer to refund you this money.

It may take several months to receive your compensation if your bag is truly lost, according to the DOT.

Related resources
Baggage risks
How to complain to you airliner

What to do if your luggage is Lost on your flight
http://airsafe.com/journal/v1num20.htm -- 1 June 2017