The lost-luggage checklist: What to do if your bags are delayed

Remember to be thorough about labeling your bag. Attach a tag with your name to the outside and also be sure to tuck identification – such as a business card – on the inside. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Air travel brings adventure, memories, joy — and, unfortunately, sometimes stress. Reaching your destination to find that your bag isn’t waiting for you can quickly turn travel excitement into travel frustration.

We understand that a delayed or missing bag is not a happy start to anyone’s trip. At Alaska, we pride ourselves on getting our guests their luggage in a timely manner, which is why we have our 20-minute baggage service guarantee: If your bags take longer than 20 minutes to arrive at the carousel after your plane reaches the gate, talk to a customer service or baggage agent to receive Mileage Plan miles or a discount off a future flight.

But even though on-time baggage service is our top priority, disruptions happen— and when they do, we will do our best to get you reunited with your belongings and keep you informed every step of the way. “With delayed bags, time is really of the essence, and we do everything we can to get our guests taken care of in that moment,” said Katie Wilbur, a central baggage agent with Alaska. “We want you to know how much our agents truly care about our guests as individuals and about their specific situation to get you reunited with your luggage and on your way.”

If your bag is delayed getting to the carousel, here are some steps you can take while we work behind the scenes:

Stay at the airport. If your bag doesn’t immediately arrive, don’t just leave. When bags stop entering the carousel, ask a local agent about the status of your flight’s baggage.

Check the oversized baggage area in case your bag is there. Near each carousel, you’ll find signs explaining where to pick up oversized luggage. If you cannot find the oversized baggage area, ask one of our local uniformed employees for directions.

For late luggage, claim your discount. If your bags are delayed longer than 20 minutes after your aircraft arrived at the gate, talk to an agent at the airport for your $25 discount code or 2,500 miles for our baggage service guarantee. You need to request a voucher within two hours of your flight’s arrival. Read more here.

If your bag didn’t arrive, file a claim at the baggage office. If your luggage hasn’t arrived when the carousel stops, speak to our local baggage team at your arrival airport to file a claim. Be sure to give your contact information, so agents can reach out when they have more information. File a claim with them before leaving so we can work to get your bags back to you as quickly as possible.

Getting updates on the status of your claim: Airport agents try to update guests on the status of delayed bags at least every 24 hours. If you need to reach the airport, baggage phone numbers can be found here. If agents don’t answer, leave a message with your information. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a quick update as the team will call you back when they have information to share. If your bag is still missing after five days, contact Alaska’s Central Baggage office at (877) 815-8253.

If you left an item on board: Always try to check your area before exiting the plane. If you do leave something behind and you’re still at the airport, check with a baggage or customer service agent right away to see if anything was turned in to the lost and found or recovered from the aircraft. If you realize after leaving that you left something behind, fill out this form to alert our baggage team.

Looking for more information? The best information will come from our baggage staff agents, who do the actual tracking and will contact you with updates. Our social media team is available 24/7 and is a great source for flight updates, travel questions and other resources – but they aren’t your best source for baggage questions.

More questions? We also have a general baggage FAQ on alaskaair.com.

Finally, remember there are a couple of things you can do while packing for your next trip to make the experience easier if your bag is lost: “Make sure you have your name on your bag,” said Wilbur. Be thorough: Attach a tag with your name to the outside and also be sure to tuck identification – such as a business card – on the inside. “This simple thing can be the factor between finding your bag and not being able to locate it.” And it’s a good idea to always keep medication and valuables with you. If you are traveling with a laptop, camera, expensive jewelry or necessary medication, secure these items in your carry-on bag just in case your checked bag is delayed.

Happy travels!

3 comments on "The lost-luggage checklist: What to do if your bags are delayed"

  1. Fortunately my ‘lost’ luggage has always come home. I found it helpful to take a picture of my luggage before i hand it over. When you report lost luggage you need to describe what it looks like and a picture has helped me a lot. Thanks alaska!!

  2. Most 877, 888, 800 numbers do not work internationally. It would be far more helpful if you explained your options if Alaska loses the luggage and what you are willing to do – since we would be without clothes and toiletries.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your question! Alaska Airlines currently flies internationally to Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica. I’ve put together a list of numbers for international baggage services, see image below: International Baggage Service Phone Numbers See full list of airport baggage service offices.

      Despite our best efforts, baggage will sometimes be delayed or damaged, if that is the case, the maximum liability for international travel is $9.07/lb for checked bags, and $400 (USD) per passenger for unchecked bags under the Warsaw Convention.

      If your international travel is covered by the Montreal Convention, the liability for loss or delay of your baggage is limited to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) per passenger. If the value of your checked items covered by our baggage policy exceeds the standard liability, you may declare and purchase additional valuation for $1.00 per every $100.00 of value, to a maximum of $5,000. Read more about our limitations of liability policies. Hope this helps, happy travels!