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Lost... and Found!

This summer my DH and I went to Annecy for three weeks with five (!) checked bags: a personal record (I am usually a carry-on bag lady). It wasn't the heat that addled our brains -- we were going to hike, bike, climb and do other outdoorsy stuff -- so we had a lot of gear. We even compression-packed two soft mattress toppers for the super-hard French beds. With all this gear in mind, we purposely purchased non-stop RT SAS flights from Stockholm to Geneva, a flight that usually takes about 2.5 hours.

Fast forward three hot weeks...we had a very nice trip (future TR) and on our last day in our rental, SAS cancelled our non-stop flight (who knows why) and stuck us on an Air France flight leaving a day later with a connection at CDG. We booked an IBIS near Geneva airport for the next evening and decided to spend a day sightseeing in Geneva.

The next day, our 2.5 hour flight turned into a nearly 7 hour slog (that had begun at 4:30 in the morning) with a delay at CDG and a stop to.... the Lost Luggage office at Arlanda. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as the baggage carousel stopped turning, with me and 3 other people looking for our bags with quiet panic in our eyes. My bag was not there. We had paid an extra 70 euros because we lost our SAS baggage allowance. To add to the insult of losing my bag, one of our gear bags had suffered a massive ding with a wheel dangling precariously from a sliver of molded plastic.

The luggage guy registered the lost and damaged bags for us. Back home, dealing with AF online was frustrating. I tried to be zen about my loss and thankful I had packed some of my favorite and hard-to-replace items in my carry-on backpack. Finally, 7 days later, I got a text from Bring, a courier company, saying they would deliver my bag the next day at a selected time. I got no correspondence from Worldtracer or Air France whatsoever the entire time. But yay, I got my bag back!
Some Notes and Lessons Learned:

  • Avoid checking bags on flights with a connection... but sometimes you just have to. In that case, use air tags. This was my first missing bag incident in nearly 30 years of plane travel, mostly with carry-ons.
  • I left my packing list in my suitcase. Yikes. (Keeping the list in your personal item makes it easier to itemize things for forms like missing bag claims.)
  • If your bag isn't on the carousel look around the hall first to see if someone pulled it off and left it, then go directly to the Lost Luggage counter and file a claim. Same for damaged bags -- make a claim right away before you leave the airport, no matter how tired you are. Make sure to ask the staff at the Lost Luggage counter what to expect after you file a claim.
  • The Air France Worldtracer website is buggy. I couldn't go past the 2nd page after filling in my claim number and "PNR" number. Glad I didn't have to file an itemized list.
  • I called the AF contact number and spoke with a Rep on the 2nd day. She asked me to list any notable items in my suitcase for easier ID. She was courteous. She didn't know what a packing cube was.
  • Take photos of or write down luggage model info, color and size for future reference. Make sure to have ID tags on the bag with your last name and phone number or email address that are accessible to airport personnel. Use an air tag on connecting flights and maybe take a photo of the interior of your packed bag.
  • Items that are precious to you or are hard to replace make sure to leave them at home or pack them in your personal item. In the bigger scheme of things, it's just stuff. I mentally prepared myself to let it all go. Hope this helps! Safe and happy travels!
Posted by
4293 posts

Ugh! What a miserable experience! I am glad you got your things back, but what a process!

And yes, I too have been surprised at the tech issues. That part makes no sense to me.

Posted by
14177 posts

"She didn't know what a packing cube was."

This made me burst out laughing!

While I do have a photo on my suitcase in my "documents" folder in my Notes app, I hadn't thought about taking a picture of the interior.

For your packing list, I suggest doing it on something like googledocs that you can access on your phone from somewhere other than your laptop at home. I have a masterlist and could easily fill in what I'd packed and cross off what I didn't bring.

I'm glad you got your bag returned! And good list to contemplate.

Did you use everything in the 5 bags, lol??

Posted by
66 posts

Texas Travel Mom,
Thank you! I read your thoughtful post and was inspired to add my experience!

Posted by
66 posts

Pam,

that's a great idea about loading the packing list onto google docs!

I guess even people in the travel business are not as keyed into stuff like packing cubes as those of us on the forum ;)

Posted by
66 posts

Pam,

We used most of the stuff except for a lot of the cold weather stuff. The mountains are just not that cold now, unfortunately. I also added a few things due to a lapse of self-control during the July store sales.

Posted by
9794 posts

I am so glad that you eventually got your stuff back. Sorry for the permanent damage to one of your gear bags (and paying $70 for all this, in addition!).

Thank you for sharing your cautionary tale.

Posted by
5651 posts

One other thing I learned when my bag was missing for 5 days (ironically, it was on a flight between Geneva and Arlanda, although it was a non-stop flight on SAS) …

Make sure to put your name and contact information inside your bag also. Sometimes the baggage tags come off and personnel needs to open the bag to try to figure out who it belongs to; this is why they ask for notable items.

Glad that it only went missing on the way home and that it made its way back to you.

Posted by
66 posts

Kim,

thank you. It was pretty easy to get a replacement suitcase -- just can't be too picky, which my DH isn't. Overall, it was a good learning experience and a reminder that this is the new normal in travel.

Posted by
14177 posts

"We used most of the stuff except for a lot of the cold weather stuff. The mountains are just not that cold now, unfortunately. I also added a few things due to a lapse of self-control during the July store sales."

Yes on the not-so-cold....but you can never tell and with mountains you need to be prepared, as you were!! I'd vote for continued packing to cover the possibility of cold in a mountain climate!

And laughing at the lapse....

@Laura - I agree with putting ID information in the suitcase. I put mine in a sheet protector that is clipped to the inside top mesh of my suitcase. I have a general itinerary in there as well in case it needs to catch up with me along with my phone and email.

Posted by
66 posts

Laura,

thanks for the tip and yes, missing bags can happen on any airline.

I wish all suitcases had built in sleeves for ID's too.

Posted by
7410 posts

Glad it all worked out for you, but how awful to have a quick planned flight turn into this long mess, instead!

I’m one of those crazies who spends lots of time deciding what to take. I guess a couple of benefits I hadn’t considered are I have not only a packing list I could access, but I also have a photo of my final items laying on the guest bed before the final pack. My husband also takes a “leaving on a trip” photo of me holding/wearing my luggage - an extra bit of proof of what luggage I brought.

Posted by
66 posts

Hi Jean...

Same! It's nice to know there are others with the same affliction! ;)

Posted by
3304 posts

Moomin and TTM have inspired me to buy the Android equivalent of air tags - SyncUP Tracker. Right now, I'm hoping I'm smart enough to use them - downloading the app and connecting two trackers was a bit stressful for this boomer.

Posted by
1955 posts

I went on a Baltic cruise in 2019. I met a couple who had booked SAS non stop and guess what SAS did. They forgot to load the luggage onto the plane. The couple never got their luggage the entire cruise.

Along with that, the husband had convinced the wife that they should check the carry on's as well. And they did not get those either.

She was very very unhappy with him and he did have to make up by buying her a magnificent one of a kind Russian Nesting Dolls.

Posted by
1004 posts

I think taking a photo of the inside of your luggage is a good idea. We lost luggage on a trip to the UK in 2017 when BA had an IT meltdown. I received my luggage the night I returned home in St. Louis and my friend never received her luggage. She had to remember everything she had packed, price the item (anything worth over $150 needed a receipt), and recall the make and cost of her luggage. Luckily she had paid for most of her stuff on her Credit Card and had the receipts. Her reimbursement for $2000 + was made 2 months after AA had declared her luggage lost for good. She had also put her name on the inside and outside of her luggage to no avail.

Posted by
272 posts

Anyone else feel like if you have to pay EXTRA for checked baggage and it does not arrive WITH you, you should get a REFUND of the checked baggage fee AND an INCONVENIENCE fee?

OR if it arrives damaged, you should get a REFUND of the checked baggage fee PLUS the cost of repairing the damage or replacing the bag AND an INCONVENIENCE fee AND the replacement cost of anything in the bag that was damaged?

Seems like charging an extra fee makes them MORE responsible for taking care of our luggage.

I'm sure there is a legal term for this, but it isn't coming to me right now.

Posted by
6858 posts

Moomin, what an awful thing to happen although I'm glad you finally got your bag back. And thank you for sharing this! I have a packing list on Google docs, but I never thought about taking a photo of the inside (I do take a photo of the outside, though).

I'm curious, though - have you tried to get reimbursement for the €70 from SAS? Probably not much chance of that but still...

Posted by
709 posts

Hearing this- gotta wonder what’s going on when these things happen. It’s almost unbelievable.
So sorry to hear it, but such good suggestions coming forth from it. I’m making notes as I’ve never thought to have ID inside my bag. Duh!
And a master list for packing!! I make a list for each trip, but a master list would be so handy. Pam, if you read this, did you make your own or is it from a handy site?
I don’t like checking bags going, but coming back I like the lighter load. Must start packing lighter.

OP-we have a couple of trips in the future that will need more diverse weather clothing and gear and I’m still hoping to have one carryon! Dreaming I think.

Posted by
4293 posts

Estimated Prophet, my AirTags have really been useful. Hope it works for you - even if it’s just to reassure you your stuff is there.

Posted by
14177 posts

@SJS - it’s one I created and have modified over the years. If you want to PM my your email I’d be happy to send it to you to use as a starting point!

Posted by
66 posts

Thanks everyone for all the great ideas, comments and suggestions!

Estimated Prophet, interesting heads up on the Sync Up Tracker, will look into it. Many thanks!

Bostonphil7, that guy got off easy!

mpaulynsettle, hope the $2000+ your friend was reimbursed was worth the amount of time and effort it took to get it! Also, having to replace my things would have been frustrating. A lot of my stuff was purchased over a long time and quality-wise, "they don't make 'em like they used to"!

khansen, we're hoping the compensation for the extra luggage fee comes through.

Mardee, thanks for bringing up reimbursement from SAS. As of two days ago, my DH has submitted a form to SAS for compensation for the extra night in a hotel, meals and the extra bag fee. Fingers crossed. Will probably take months.

Posted by
195 posts

I put a QR code on my home made luggage tag. The airlines can scan it and find out how to return it.