Airline Damaged My Luggage: What To Do

A Step-by-Step Guide on What to Do When Your Luggage Gets Damaged by an Airline

From Frustration to Resolution: A Step-by-Step Guide on What to Do When Your Luggage Gets Damaged by an Airline

It's a nightmare scenario that every traveler dreads — arriving at your destination only to discover that your luggage has been damaged. After a 4-hour flight from Los Angeles, California, we touched down in Toronto, Canada late at midnight. My husband and I had been warned about the recent snowstorm, so we bundled up for the expected cold weather. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the unexpected — our first travel nightmare. Let's go!

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Our luggage had endured several overseas flights, reaching the Philippines and Singapore. However, the short journey to Canada proved too much. When we arrived at the conveyer belt, our jaws dropped in disbelief — our luggage had broken apart. My husband could barely roll the luggage. And with a baby in tow, the freezing temperature only added to our discomfort.

Airline Claims: What You Need to Know About Damaged Baggage

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here is what you need to know, as well as five easy steps to follow when seeking compensation.

Here are some of the things that airlines do NOT cover: Normal wear-and-tear

When it comes to travelling, certain things are inevitable. These include minor scratches, hard-to-remove stains, small dents, scuff marks that resemble scrapes, and dirt. All these are considered normal wear-and-tear.

Let's face it: cramming clothes into your bag beyond its capacity is a recipe for disaster. It's almost as if you're daring fate, tempting things to go wrong (which usually does). Additionally, luggage with broken zippers could put your belongings at risk; if it's damaged during check-in, or if it's made of low-quality materials, airlines may refuse your damage claims.

Here's what airlines DO cover:
  • Damaged and mutilated wheels, handles, and straps
  • Intensely noticeable holes or cracks in hard-sided bags that expose your belongings
  • Damages that make it challenging to transport your luggage
Remember to stand up for yourself and hold airlines accountable for any damage they may have caused. It's important to note that policies may differ by airline but these are some of the usual terms and conditions.

Don't let airlines mishandle your luggage any longer – take control and advocate for your rights today. 

    Step 1. It's crucial to report it to the airline as soon as possible.

    Option A: At the airport's baggage claim office

    If possible, go straight to the baggage claim office immediately. For domestic flights, you have up to 24 hours to report a claim; for international flights, you have up to 7 days. Keep in mind that policies vary by airline.

    Option B: File a claim online

    If you’re unable to go in person, consider reaching out through the website, by email or by phone. Since our issue occurred late at night, we were too exhausted for option A, especially with our sleepy baby who needed to rest. We filed an online claim with the airline as soon as we could. We arrived on February 1st and filed the claim the next day after some sleep.

    Follow Up by Phone: Call the airline's hotline

    After submitting the online claim on February 2nd, we also called the airline to make sure they received our claim since we did not receive a confirmation number. Unfortunately, the website was experiencing some glitches that day, compounding our difficulties. Expect some waiting time during this call. Fortunately, our patience paid off as the agent confirmed our claim with all pictures attached and provided us a reference code.

    Step 2. Photograph the damage with your baggage tags on

    Option A: At the airport's baggage claim office

    It's easier to go to the airline's office to file a claim instead of emailing evidence and dealing with the hassle. Ensure that you do not remove your baggage tags as the airline will need to see them. However, if you're short on time then filing for an online claim is also an option. 

    Option B: File a claim online

    This is the most important part of filing a claim online. Take photographs of the damage. Make sure to take a picture of the baggage tag as the airline will need that for verification.

    Take note: If time is tight, make sure to file a claim with the airline within the specified time frame which varies by airline. Keep a copy of all the documents related to the damaged luggage, such as your airline and baggage claim ticket(s), and receipt(s) if you purchased a new luggage until you get your reimbursement.

    Step 3. Specific details when filing your claim

    Both options: at baggage claim office and online claim

    When requesting reimbursement for your bag, it's important to provide an approximate amount for its original cost. In some cases, the airline may offer a replacement on the spot if you urgently need a bag and aren't too picky about the style. Additionally, when submitting your claim online and even by phone, the agent may ask for more details such as the purchase date and location. They even asked for a link to a similar bag online. Fortunately, we were able to provide the requested information.

    Step 4. Take important notes

    When speaking to someone about a claim, be sure to write down their name and any relevant information, such as claim/reference numbers. This will help you follow up on any status updates swiftly without additional questions later.  Speaking of which...

    Step 5. Make sure to follow-up

    Try to stay in close communication with the airline after filing a claim. It took the airline an extended time to address our reimbursement inquiry. It wasn't until almost four months later that we finally received our money back.

    Keep your airline and baggage claim tickets for reference until the process is complete. Remember to keep copies of your baggage information, baggage tags, and receipts if you bought a replacement.

    Baggage Claim Timeline

    Here's a timeline of our baggage claim process for reference:
    • February 1: Arrived at the airport and retrieved our damaged luggage.
    • February 2: Filed a claim online and followed up by phone.
    • February 18: Received confirmation from the airline that processing had begun. We encountered an issue with the value of the claim as it was in Canadian dollars instead of USD (or its equal converted value). We reached out to the agent, who was able to take note of the conversion, pending approval.
    • April 24: Received an email approving our claim.
    • May 13: Refund was issued.
    • May 16: Money received in our bank account.

    Protecting Your Rights

    In case you don't receive your reimbursement, you can file another claim. When it comes to damaged, delayed, or lost luggage, airlines are accountable for replacing or reimbursing the passenger's baggage.

    • United States
    In the United States, you can file a consumer complaint with the Department of Transportation if you do not receive compensation.

    • Canada
    If the airline does not fix the problem, here’s a link to the Air Travel Protection website: File Air Travel Complaint.

    To learn more, please conduct your research and visit the website. 

    Why Investing in Luggage Matters


    Do NOT underestimate the value of investing in high-quality luggage — we learned this lesson the hard way.
     In the long-term, this ensures durability, reliability, and better protection for your vital travel belongings. Can you imagine attending a friend's beach wedding only to have lost your formal and/or beach attire?  Great luggage can withstand the trials of travel, making your trip more comfortable and stress-free.

    Peace of Mind

    There's no denying the superior quality of our luggage, which has repeatedly proven its durability. We never worry about the chaotic bumps that come with baggage transportation. Although we paid a bit more for it, the peace of mind it provides during our travels makes it worth every penny.

    Lastly, don't let a damaged bag ruin your travel experience and happiness. I hope this comprehensive guide has raised awareness to your rights and empowered you to pursue the compensation you deserve. Stay informed and take the necessary steps to safeguard both your luggage and your rights as a passenger.

    Have fun and be safe ^__^

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    Where am I going next?

    For my next adventure, A Relaxing Getaway at an All-Inclusive Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico.

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