Our flight was already delayed, and by the time we landed in Denver, our baby was tired and we hoped to simply grab our bags and get to our hotel. We pulled our suitcases off the conveyor belt and waited patiently for the car seat to arrive. But as we watched other families identify their strollers and car seats, ours didn’t appear.

We asked the customer service representative at Southwest baggage services about it, and at first, the woman was rude, telling us to wait longer. We’d already been waiting 30 minutes. After an hour, we went back. This time, another, friendlier woman helped us.

First Steps to Take When an Airline Loses Your Luggage

The amount of lost luggage has significantly decreased over the last few years. But like any vacation mishap, it’s still incredibly frustrating when your bag doesn’t arrive at your destination.

Once you realize that your bags won’t be vacationing with you, here’s what you need to do.

First, don’t leave the airport without talking to baggage services. They’ll help you fill out a claim form for your lost luggage and figure out the next steps.

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The airline will continue looking for the bag. If it still hasn’t been found after a certain amount of time, you’re entitled to funds to replace the bag and its contents.

Airlines abide by the domestic liability limit of $3,500 in compensation for lost luggage. For international travel, the limit for countries that accepted the Warsaw Convention is $9.07 per pound and up to $640 per bag. For those governed by the Montreal Convention, the limit is 1,131 SDR (Special Drawing Rights — roughly $1,500 in U.S. dollars) per ticketed passenger.

To receive compensation for lost luggage, you’ll need to provide receipts of either the contents of the original luggage or receipts for items purchased as a result of the lost luggage, depending on the airline’s policy.

Airlines also have a long list of items that aren't eligible for compensation. This includes valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, works of art, musical instruments, important documents, and more. Airlines encourage passengers to carry these items onboard with them, so make sure to check your airline’s contract of carriage for exact details.


Notify baggage services at the airport or within 24 hours of your flight landing. If United finds the bag within three days, it will deliver it at a time and place that's convenient for you.

However, if the bag is still missing after that time, United will pay you $1,500 for the bag and contents, along with the cost of checking the bag — no documentation needed. If the bag costs more than $1,500, you can file a claim for up to the $3,500 liability limit for domestic flights.

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Speak with baggage services within four hours of your arrival at your destination. They will continue looking for your bag for up to five days. After that, your claim will be transferred to Central Baggage Services and you can request standard reimbursement for the bag.


If your luggage is lost, notify a customer service representative. If the bag doesn't appear after 12 hours, you may be eligible for a rebate if you paid for your first and/or second bags. Excess bags and overweight or specialty items aren't eligible for compensation, and Delta sends the rebates only via email.

Delta will compensate you either $25 or $50, depending on the number of bags missing.

The airline will reimburse you at about $50 per day for expenses incurred for the first five days that you spent without your bag. That said, it handles this on an individual basis up to the limit of liability. If your bag is still missing after five days, you’ll need to file a claim online.


Like Southwest, you will need to report your bag as missing within four hours. JetBlue won’t pay more than $5,000 in compensation for lost luggage, including the $3,500 standard liability. That said, you can take legal action up to a year after the claim.

American Airlines

American Airlines will search for the bag for 24 hours after you claim it as lost or delayed. If the airline finds the bag within that period, it will deliver it to the customer at their own expense.

Once the bag is missing for more than five days, you'll need to fill out a passenger property questionnaire. American Airlines will then make a decision on reimbursement up to the standard liability. The company will also reimburse you for expenses you incurred while waiting for your bag. You will need to submit receipts to the Central Baggage Office within 45 days.

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What Happened to Our Car Seat?

As for our lost car seat, Southwest gave us a loaner (which I was not entirely confident was safe). The airline found our bag the night before we left Denver, and we picked it up on the way to our gate. This time, we decided to gate-check it.