Airmageddon 2022When you find yourself in the middle of the summer of lost luggage
Air travel can be exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s the quickest way to see family, friends, and foreign lands, but the expenses and time associated with flying can be a lot for some people.
For people like me who are from Nepal but live abroad, flying thousands of miles to see the family is a part of life. Whenever I have an upcoming trip home, I spend months making lists of gifts for loved ones and hours shopping online so I can bring them something special.
This year, I started shopping in January because I was excited to be home for five weeks. Working remotely gave me the luxury of spending more than a typical three-week vacation.
After leaving the central United States at 10am on 24 June, I landed in Nepal at 6am two days later. But one of my suitcases did not. After staring at the conveyor belt for about an hour, I knew.
I was frustrated but stayed calm while filling out the missing luggage form at Tribhuvan International Airport. They asked me to list everything in the suitcase with a description. They assured me it would arrive on the next flight and be delivered to my doorstep.
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I left the airport with the form and one suitcase. I was disappointed yet hopeful. Soon, I realised I was among the hundreds of people who have lost their luggage around the world this northern summer.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that almost 220,000 bags were lost, damaged, delayed, or stolen in April 2022 due to airlines struggling with a shortage of workers. Most of the workers were let go during Covid, when rarely anyone traveled.
With the world picking itself back up and more people taking the opportunity to travel again, airlines struggle to find employees but continue to schedule flights, often overbooking them.
I was almost unable to check-in for my flight as it was overbooked with the airlines offering $775 to anyone willing to give up their seats, but they still took one of my suitcases despite me asking them to wait.
After being tossed around between counters for about an hour, one of the employees said she found me a seat and took my second suitcase, and I asked her politely- “Will both of them make it to Nepal?”
“Of course,” she responded, but that didn’t happen.
When I contacted the airlines, I was asked to send a detailed description of the suitcase as well as pictures and descriptions of every item in it so they could locate it. I was able to do that because online shopping does have its advantages in that respect.
To make it easier for the airport and the airlines, I even created an excel spreadsheet with the name, description, and price of everything and attached receipts, for around 50 items in the suitcase. Both reassured me that a piece of luggage could not be lost, but it’s misplaced, and I was guaranteed to find it.
The second time I called the Lost and Found department at the airport, a gentleman told me that people lose their luggage all the time and they really don’t have the time to look for each one of them and hung up.
Perhaps, he was having a bad day, and my request to look for my materialistic things didn’t quite measure up in the grand scheme.
In the weeks of “not lost, yet not sure where the suitcase is,” I learned a lot about the guidelines and regulations of “misplaced or delayed” luggage.
As per International Air Transport (IATA) guidelines, if an airline cannot locate a bag for 21 days, it can declare it lost. Once they declare it lost, they must start the compensation process.
However, in my case, I was constantly told that it was not lost and that they were looking. There is also a regulation for daily compensation for every delayed day from the date of arrival, which I was made aware of by a friend who works for a different airline.
Another friend of mine told me that she lost her luggage a few years ago and got it back a year after it went missing, so there was always some hope. I continued to email the carrier and send messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter once or twice a week to follow up and often, I was not met with a response.
It was recently brought to my attention that if no one claims a lost suitcase for a year, they can put it up for sale.
After sending numerous emails and often not getting a response, I didn’t expect my luggage to show up any time soon. I thought I’d be one of those lucky people who got it back a year later.
However, on 15 August, I got an email from the airline asking for my address, and I gave them my address in the US. They delivered my luggage to my address in Nepal five days later with everything in it with minimal damage.
But the incessant fight for compensation continues, especially as that part of my email usually goes ignored.
After this experience, I invested in an AirTag to track my luggage for future travels in case it happens again, and I highly recommend it. Even if the airline loses your luggage, you can track it on your phone.
I would also suggest carrying all your essentials in your carry on and having a detailed description of all items and pictures in an unfortunate case, it does go missing.
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