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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arrive early to avoid lost-luggage hassles

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A total of 2,193,711 pieces of luggage were reported mishandled by airlines in the U.S. last year.

AP file photo

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If an airline loses your luggage, your first stop should be the baggage claim office to report it missing. Your next move might be to buy a change of clothes.

But while airlines are required to reimburse passengers for clothing and toiletries in the event of a lost or delayed bag, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, getting that cash back may require persistence.

"Some airlines were declining for necessities, like clothing, needed immediately," said Bill Mosely, spokesman for the DOT. "(Airlines) cannot limit them to only outbound flights or how soon they expect the bags to arrive."

Mosely said some airlines also try to deny compensation to passengers for purchases made within the first 24 hours following the reported loss. But he said that's a violation of DOT regulations. Passengers should be able to purchase necessities after they file a missing bag claim, rather than having to wait to see if the bag turns up.

While the majority of checked bags reach their destination without incident, a total of 2,193,711 bags were reported mishandled by all airlines last year in the United States, with 188,254 reports filed in January alone.

A maximum liability of $3,300 for domestic flights can be claimed by the passenger should checked luggage be lost in transit. International limits are lower, roughly $100 for every 2.2 pounds of luggage, for a maximum total of $640.

You can avoid these hassles altogether by not checking luggage at all. You can also reduce the likelihood of lost bags by arriving early so there's ample time for your luggage to be screened and sent to the correct gate, according to Susan Foster, author of "Smart Packing for Today's Traveler."

"Allow two hours," Foster said. Foster always packs a survival kit in her carry-on, including phone charger, medication, clean shirt and underwear, everything she needs to "hit the ground running. I don't want to miss a day," she said.