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What happens when British Airways loses your luggage or leaves it behind?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have seen the widespread travel chaos that has been unfolding at airports nationwide over the past two weeks.

The Easter school holidays have been the busiest travel period in two years and airlines and airports have been struggling to cope.

This is partly because both have faced unprecedented ramp-ups from operating skeleton schedules during the Christmas Omicron wave to operating near to full capacity in April. It is also partly down to lack of staff exacerbated by covid redundancies, a highly competitive job market and increased processing times for staff security clearance (I’ve seen four months mentioned online).

British Airways lost baggage

All of the above has culminated in a travel season that airlines are hoping to forget – even if it’s the busiest they’ve been in the past two years.

Nevertheless, I was loath to waste a four day bank holiday at home so my brother and I decided to visit my grandparents in Stuttgart, flying out on Thursday evening.

Let’s start with the good news ….

…. which is that check in and security at Heathrow Terminal 5 were a breeze.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen Terminal 5 more ‘normal’ that I did on Thursday. There were plenty of flyers but virtually no queues. With many countries removing covid restrictions and ditching passenger locator forms, the burden on check-in staff has reduced significantly and they can return to what they do best – ie. check in customers.

Airside, Terminal 5 was once again heaving with passengers – a return to the pre-covid status quo – including the lounges. It was almost impossible for me and my brother to find a pair of seats together in Galleries First.

Compared to the gigantic security queues and delays seen at airports previously in the week, everything seemed normal. Unfortunately it was anything but normal ….

Help! British Airways left my bags at Heathrow

Deep within the bowels of Terminal 5 British Airways was (and largely still is) dealing with a staffing crisis, and Thursday was a particular crunch point. BA managers instructed baggage handlers to prioritise long haul flights, which meant many short haul flights were going out without luggage being loaded.

Thirteen flights on Thursday went without bags, and unfortunately Stuttgart was one of those affected. It was also delayed by two hours ….

What is bizarre is that nobody operating the flight seemed to know of the baggage issue, even though I had been warned that my flight was one of the thirteen nominated to go without being loaded:

  • The gate staff didn’t know
  • The head loader didn’t know
  • The flight crew didn’t know

Even the pilots didn’t seem to be aware, because no announcement was made at any point during the flight.

The first confirmation I had that my bag had, indeed, been left at Heathrow was with a text from British Airways upon landing:

“We’re very sorry that your bag didn’t arrive on time when you landed today. Please complete a baggage report form online here and make sure you keep your receipts for any essential items you may need to purchase in the time you’re without your bag. If you need to claim back any essential costs you’ve incurred, you can do this at We’re sorry again for any inconvenience this may cause. We’re doing our best to get your bag to you as soon as possible.”

64 checked bags hadn’t been loaded. Oops.

There was also some confusion in Stuttgart at the luggage carousel. Lots of passengers clearly hadn’t checked their phones and were understandably confused. Fortunately, one of the airport staff knew what was going on.

British Airways BA tailfins heathrow T5

How to report your lost or delayed luggage to British Airways

The good news is that BA’s lost baggage portal is surprisingly thorough. You can report your bag delayed here with your name and bag tag identification number. The website will also ask you for identifying features in case the luggage tag is lost, including:

  • type of bag (trolley, duffle, other etc)
  • the colour and material
  • external descriptive elements (eg. bag tag)
  • a distinctive item inside the bag

I was able to report our bags missing within ten minutes on the train into town and received a log of the report.

You can also choose between getting the bags delivered to your home address, a third party address or to the airport where you can pick them up yourself. I chose the second.

What compensation and reimbursement can you get for lost or delayed luggage?

Once you’ve filed the report it’s worth checking what your insurance coverage includes, as you are likely to need to buy some emergency clothes and toiletries.

In this case I was covered by my American Express Business Platinum Card. This came with £300 cover for essential items on a delay of four hours or more followed by a further £300 after 48 hours.

If your insurance does not come with delayed luggage cover then it is also possible to claim from British Airways, although the process is likely to be more of a fight.

Unfortunately, as it was the Easter weekend, I wasn’t able to buy any essential items until Saturday when all the shops reopened. Our bags still hadn’t been delivered so we bought some underwear, t-shirts and other bits and bobs.

How long does it take British Airways to deliver a bag?

The delayed baggage portal claims that most bags are returned within 72 hours. In the end, we got our bags back two and a half days later.

To be fair to British Airways, Germany basically shuts down entirely over the Easter break (they take their bank holidays very seriously).

One of the most frustrating parts of the experience was the lack of communication. Once I had filed the report the portal indicated that are bags were still being searched for:

BA delayed baggage

To make things even more confusing, there is a second baggage portal called that some of BA’s communication refers to. Using the same login details, the WorldTracer portal suggested that my bags would be on the next flight to Stuttgart on the following day, indicating that my bags had been found.

It would have been nice for the luggage portal to indicate this and to update the status to something like ‘in transit’ or similar, but frustratingly no progress was shown. If I hadn’t put on my detective hat I would have been very much in the dark.

There was no confirmation that the bags had arrived on the following flight. Again, I was left wondering whether they had made it and I would receive them soon or whether I would have to spend another day without.

Eventually, they were assigned a courier in WorldTracer but – again – no estimated delivery date was given. When I tried to call the Stuttgart Ground Services number given nobody picked up – the phone line had been closed for covid security reasons ….

It was with some relief that I got a phone call on our third day in Stuttgart from the Ground Services to let me know they were planning to deliver that morning. A true Easter miracle!

Even now, though, the BA baggage portal still suggests that the bags are on their way …. even though they were delivered two days ago.

Recap: how to report delayed baggage to British Airways

Here is the process for reporting lost or delayed baggage:

  1. Report the delayed or missing baggage to British Airways via the luggage portal here.
  2. Check your insurance policy for delayed luggage coverage
  3. Buy essential items if necessary, keeping all receipts
  4. Receive your luggage from British Airways (hopefully!)
  5. Begin your insurance claim, either with your insurer or BA

There is a 21-day cut off for reporting delayed or missing baggage, so it’s best to do this as soon as possible. Luggage is officially lost if it hasn’t arrived within 21 days.

Communication, communication and …. communication

So, what have we learned? Whilst BA’s luggage portal got off to a good start, the lack of status updates was incredibly frustrating as we were basically left in the dark on the whereabouts of our luggage and an estimated delivery window.

These days, most couriers are able to give pretty accurate status updates and delivery estimates when you order something online – why can’t airlines do the same?

I accept the issue is slightly more complex – British Airways has to deal with hundreds of third party ground service companies, and integrating all these into a single system sounds like hard work. But it seems like a solvable problem – after all, the bags already have luggage tags on them!

With a simple scanner you’d think BA and ground handlers would be able to scan the bags at every stage of their journey and send updates to customers. It’s something that would take a lot of frustration out of an already-frustrating experience.

Even something as easy as having the pilots announce the issue during the flight would have ensured a much less confusing experience, with pilots or crew helping to explain next steps to passengers.


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Comments (150)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Steve says:

    You forgot item 0 on your list – don’t fly BA…

    Thankfully I’ve never lost any luggage on a flight (touch wood…) but I always take a photograph of my suitcase (from the outside, and one of it open) in case of any trouble. I also now have an AirTag but haven’t flown since COVID so haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.

    I’m curious about the “return address” you have to specify… can you add multiple addresses and dates? For example, if you’re flying somewhere and staying at a hotel for a couple of days, then moving on somewhere else, can you provide details so that they match it up to the right location at the right time? Or is the onus then on you to get back to your first hotel if they take more than a couple of days to deliver it?

    • Rhys says:

      You can give an address with a deadline for when it can be delivered there.

  • Jonathan says:

    It’s a shame that not all Amex cards provide travel inconvenience insurance, many HfP readers now shun BAPP over BA Blue (for a variety of reasons) the latter doesn’t have this insurance benefit, whereas it’s sibling card does

  • Ian says:

    Yesterday arriving from IAD in F. Waited 45 mins for bags as “priority” (approx 12 bags – mostly First” came of last and the carousel was empty and all other passengers had left
    Long slow queue at lost baggage test T5

    • Qrfan says:

      Ba doesn’t do priority baggage. The labels are decorative. Have a quick Google. Willie Walsh once explained why in an interview, so no secret.

  • Nick says:

    The pilots would definitely have known if no bags had been loaded at all – it would have been clear from the loadsheet that they had no AKH/BM units in the hold. What they don’t know is if they have some but not all bags loaded. So in this case if they didn’t say anything it was pure laziness.

    BA is working on a bag tracking app. Why it’s taking so long I have no idea, but it’s due for delivery this year (pardon the pun). This will be like the AA one. It won’t include worldtracer improvements – I don’t know why WT is so bad, but presume it’s to do with the enormous list of airlines that would have to make changes at the same time if it were to change. A bit like ticketing standards I guess.

    I actually quite like airlines misplacing my bag on a non-homeward leg occasionally. AA bought me Doc Martens last time they sent mine to the wrong place. When life gives you lemons, and all that.

  • Jeff77 says:

    Aren’t BA and EasyJet the airlines primarily having issues with cancelled flights or have other big airlines such as Ryanair and Wizzair managed to have issues without the media picking up on it?

    (There’s also the separate issue of a lack of border force staff etc)

    • lumma says:

      Ryanair and Wizzair still require masks AFAIK. It’s less of a story if it’s not “BA/easyJet stopped mask wearing and now all their staff are off sick”

  • Alan Ayres says:

    Why didn’t you travel with cabin baggage only for such a short trip? Who checks baggage for a weekend away! For such experienced travellers, I’m shocked…well, startled…no, amused.

    • Polly says:

      Was thinking the same thing. But it makes for a good article..

    • Rhys says:

      Because I always bring lots of stuff home from Germany that you can’t get here and I need a big bag for that!

      • Jonathan says:

        Assuming you own a car Rhys (Rob has mentioned he doesn’t) you could consider driving to Germany if you like buying stuff over there that would be hard to find here in the UK and or noticeably more expensive at home other than in neighbouring countries.

        You don’t have anywhere near the number of restrictions on how much you can bring back !

        • Rhys says:

          I also do not own a car 🙂

          It’s fine. I managed to bring back 12 bottles of wine no problem 🙂

      • Lady London says:

        What is good to bring home from there then @Rhys? Schnapps?

        • Rhys says:

          Sausages, local wine etc

          • RussellH says:

            It seems to be almost impossible to buy decent German wine here.
            I was able to stock up on Landjäger at Lidl a month ago, but they were nothing like as good as the ones I find in a local market or Metzgerei.

          • Rob says:

            What we ended up with: fresh white asparagus, Prinzenrolle, pflaumenmus ….

        • Londonsteve says:

          LL, show me a German supermarket and I’ll show you a full car. German beer for a fraction of UK prices (where you can only easily find a couple of different brews anyway), as Rhys has pointed out wine is also a great purchase with low prices on top-notch Riesling from the Rhine valley or Gruner Veltliner, wonderful sausages, bakery products that keep well like moehn stollen, diary like fruit buttermilk and Landliebe yoghurts, some surprisingly excellent German cheeses, classic German potato salad, peanut flips from the crisp section, and I haven’t even mentioned the other European treats that they always have on rotating specials in places like Lidl and Aldi like ready-made Austrian schnitzel, Polish sausages, Alsace flammkuchen. I could go on forever, but I’m already hungry so I must stop.

  • Peter says:

    What are you carrying that you need to check-in a bag for a weekend trip?

  • pete says:

    the lost luggage portal works well if the checkin staff put the correct baggage tag on the corresponding passengers bag. they dont. or not always. this causes massive problems when trying to describe a bag which you have no clue ba are referring to when travelling in a group

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