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Have suitcase, will travel!

One scenario you don't want to envisage when going on holiday is the moment you realise your luggage is not on the baggage carousel at the airport! So what are the rules when your luggage has gone missing – and who should pay out for the loss of your case?

Before you work our whether to claim from the airline or your travel insurance, you need to report your missing bag. Once your flight touches down, responsibility for getting bags off the plane and onto the baggage carousel is usually down to the airline's 'handling agent' so look for their desk or the 'lost baggage' desk in the baggage hall. You will then be asked to complete a PIR “Property Irregularity Report” and make sure you include details of where you can be found - your hotel or destination on your outward bound journey and your home address for your return.

If you have arrived on holiday, but your luggage hasn't, your airline may cover the cost of buying essentials such as a change of clothes or toiletries. However, this does not mean unlimited spending – airline procedures vary according to the Civil Aviation Authority, while some may give a cash payments other simply reimburse further down the line. So the rule is to buy the bare minimum and always keep all your receipts.

Most travel insurance policies will also cover you for delayed luggage, but you have usually got to wait for twelve hours before this kicks in. Some only pay out for the outwards journey so if your bag is delayed on the way home, you will not receive a penny. That is one of the reasons why you need to check your insurance carefully – and wherever possible, buy from a professional broker.

Some airlines class bags as 'lost' once they have been missing for 21 days, whereas others (like British Airways) claim to keep looking for up to 90 days before finally admitting they have lost it!

Airline liability is limited and they don't pay out on 'new for old' either, so only expect the value of your case and contents to be reimbursed at the rate it is valued when lost, not when new.

Travel insurance policies often have much higher payouts, but insurer's small print may state that you must try to claim from your airline first before relying on your travel policy. Another bonus when claiming on your travel insurance is that some policies will cover 'consequential loss'. This is the 'knock on' effect of any loss – so say if your case is delayed and you miss the beginning of a pre-booked tour, your airline won't cover the cost of the lost tour, but your travel insurance may.

Carry-on luggage is safer as it kept close to you, but if you are on a full flight you may need to place it a locker several rows away. If this happens, take out all valuable items such as money, passport, phone, keys and tickets. Whilst most travel policies will cover lost or stolen cabin bags, airline liability is limited to 'hold' luggage only, unless you can prove any damage or loss is the direct fault of the cabin crew or airline.

Like most things in life, insuring your holiday luggage is not that straight forward – unless you have professional advice. One quick call to Westhill Insurance Services and you will have all the information you need to purchase value for money insurance to keep your holiday stress-free. This will provide a little comfort at least for when you realise your luggage is holidaying independently of you!

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 27th August, 2013