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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 ….

British Airways lost luggage

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 https://www.britishairways.com/travel/your-missing-baggage/public/en_gb#/report-missing-baggage 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 ba.com/helpme. 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 worldtracer.aero 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 (151)

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

  • IslandDweller says:

    My bag went missing on a LHR-LIS trip. I got my bag back – six weeks later. The communication (the tiny amount there was of it) was farcical. Was assured at Lisbon baggage hall that my bag would be on the next flight – it wasn’t.
    After three days I received a phone call saying they had located my bag – I asked them to describe it to me – it was a totally different bag and didn’t match any of the colour/type description I’d given, or the photo I had supplied!!
    When the bag was eventually couried to my home address there was not a hint where it had been for six weeks.
    I had to buy a complete set of clothes for the week away. EUR650. I kept all the receipts and BA paid up quickly.

  • Mo says:

    It’s ironic for me that this article has popped up today. I have had baggage issues recently and need some help and advice. We had a club world flight booked from Riyadh to London with BA. We were in Jeddah so had to booked a domestic flight with flyadeal (some crappy low cost airline) to get me to Riyadh. Our BA flight was at 0035 and I booked the domestic for 1905 leaving us enough time as flight is about 1.5 hours. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed by 3 hours! We therefore check in online and got our boarding passes but by the time we got to the int terminal in Riyadh the check in had closed so no way to drop bags off. The disappointing thing was there no BA staff to help us or give us advice. We basically were given an ultimatum. Leave the bags and board the flight or miss it. So begrudgingly we left our bags at the airport. We barely made it onto the flight.

    Since coming back, I had a friend go to the airport and recover the bags and I’ve emailed BA who have stated they can’t do anything to get our bags back due to “security protocols”.

    My question is what options do I have apart from cargo? Can BA really not do anything? I would’ve thought they could just put our bags on another passenger or freight flight?

    • Justin says:

      This is not BA’s responsibility. Your option is to ship using courier / post services.

    • Callum says:

      Well they could send it as freight for you, but they have no reason to given you didn’t check any bags in. Just like they wouldn’t if you left your bag at home and wanted it sent later. I can’t imagine any airline in the world would do this for you without charging.

      You’ll have to pay for it to be couriered.

    • KB says:

      It’s not BA’s responsibility if you haven’t allowed enough time for transfers. A 3 hour delay isn’t exactly unusual. You took the risk, and it didn’t pay off. Courier.

  • Kurt says:

    The question I have is whether you enjoyed the classy Elli Beinhorn lounge at Stuttgart Airport?

  • Patrick says:

    I actually kind of like when my checked in bag is lost, as it allows me to renew part of my wardrobe for nothing 🙂
    In both instances where my bag was delayed, it took at least a week to have it delivered back in London…but since it was on ex-UK flights, going on lenghty holidays, I had to buy everything at my destination.
    Both times, the airline (once AF,once BA), paid up without a fuss. AF even went so far as to refund the car seat we had to take as extra when picking up our car rental

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

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