Get the Airline to Reimburse Your Delayed Luggage

Get Delayed Luggage Reimbursed

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Did you know that you can get your airline to pay for lost luggage? Did you know that you can get the airline to pay for your delayed luggage? As a traveling consultant, my wardrobe is critical to my profession and I cannot go more than a day without professional clothes. Twice last year, I had my luggage delayed for a day – and while it is unfortunate that my bag was temporarily lost, American Airlines reimbursed me for clothes that I needed while my bag was missing!

My luggage is missing or delayed! What do I do?

You arrive at your destination, and your suitcase does not come out on the carousel. Your airline will have a Customer Service desk, and you will need to show them the luggage receipt you received after checking your bag. Immediately report your delayed luggage, and the Customer Service representative will be able to look-up whether your bag is simply delayed, or if your luggage is truly lost. If your luggage is delayed, such as it did not make it onto your flight in time or it missed a connection, the Customer Service representative should be able to let you know if your bag will make it to your city within the day. They will take the address of where you are staying, and will be able to deliver your luggage to you at a later time for free. If your luggage is delayed for more than 6 hours, get excited – because you can get any necessities reimbursed by the airline!

What expenses can I get reimbursed?

You will want to check your airline’s delayed or damaged bag policy to determine what items can be reimbursed. As of when this post was written, the American Airlines policy stated:
We will reimburse you for items you need immediately while away from home without your bag. AA Delayed and Damage Baggage 9/26/18
What exactly does that mean? In my experience, my luggage was delayed on a Monday after I arrived for a client in New York City. The airline was unsure if my luggage would arrive before work on Tuesday, so I needed to be prepared. I purchased toiletries for the evening (a toiletry travel pack from Walgreens), and I purchased an outfit to wear the following day. Professional clothes are pretty expensive, so I re-wore my suit jacket but purchased underwear, new slacks, and a new top. My bag showed up at the hotel around midnight. A few weeks after I submitted my reimbursement request by mail, I received a check that covered everything! This seems like a pretty sweet deal, but I tried to be reasonable. I considered purchasing new make-upl, but figured that was not a necessity. Do not purchase anything that you cannot afford or would not have purchased anyway, in the event that the airline rejects your claim.

How do I get my delayed luggage necessities reimbursed?

Search for the delayed or damaged baggage policy of your chosen airline. As of when this post was written, the American Airlines policy stated:
Within 45 days of your delay, please send us: – Your 13-character file reference number – A copy of your ticket receipt and baggage claim checks – Your original, dated, itemized receipts AA Delayed and Damage Baggage  9/26/18
These items had to be mailed to their office in Phoenix. I took photos of all these items before mailing in original receipts. I personally included a cover page, which had my name and contact information, along with why the items were necessary (“I needed clothes for my profession as a consultant”) and the total amount of money I was requesting to be reimbursed. I also included my AAdvantage number to ensure the airline could reach me if necessary. I then taped the receipts onto pieces of paper where I highlighted the total amounts. I likely went above and beyond, but I wanted to be sure that I was reimbursed. Fortunately it worked out – a few weeks later, I received a check in the mail from American Airlines for the amount I had requested.

Future Tips

  • Take a photograph of your suitcase before you check it, in the event that you need to describe the look of your suitcase to an attendant.
  • Save your luggage ticket receipt. So many times I have casually stuffed my receipt in a bag to be forgotten about. Make sure you hold onto the receipt until your suitcase is back in your hands.
  • Attach a luggage tag to your suitcase, with your name and contact information in the event your luggage goes missing and they need to reach you.

Backup Plan: Credit Card Benefits

I have the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite card, which also provides delayed baggage protection. Per my card’s benefit guide:
If the Covered Traveler’s Common Carrier checked baggage is delayed on a Trip, we may reimburse the cost of necessary personal and business items until their baggage arrives. You are covered for up to $100 per Covered Traveler, per Trip if the Covered Traveler’s checked baggage doesn’t get to their destination within 6 hours of arrival. Citi Guide to Protection Benefits 9/26/18
The above benefit describes in the event that luggage is delayed. If my luggage is actually lost or stolen while traveling,  I can be reimbursed up to $3,000 with my credit card.

Airline Policy Quick Links

These are example policies from different U.S. based airlines. If you cannot find the policy for your airline, write to the airline’s customer service and see what they say. It may be helpful to reference other airline’s websites as well. A lot of people get really stressed out when their luggage is delayed – honestly, I get excited! While it is an inconvenience, I get to go shopping and treat myself! Don’t let your missing luggage stress you out, as your airline may surprisingly have your back.

Traveling for work? Also check:

Get Delayed Luggage Reimbursed


  • Erin

    This is all such great advice because there is nothing worse than not having your luggage when you land somewhere for vacation! Luckily it’s only happened to me once and when going home, so it wasn’t a huge deal. I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and I think they have great insurance for this sort of situation.

  • Mo

    Luckily, in all the years that I have traveled, I have never lost a luggage (knock on wood!!) So I never had to resort to these policies but it’s definitely a good info to have just in case! Thanks for the tips Michelle!

  • Sarah

    Great post. I fly a lot for work, although mainly hand luggage. Touch wood, so far my suitcase was never delayed or lost, but I am dreading the day it might happen. So good to know what you need to do and what you might be able to claim.

  • Constance

    Wow this post was definitely comprehensive! I love how it touched on everything. These are great things to know just in case it happens, because when it does happen you might already be freaking out. Thank you for sharing!

  • Clazz

    This is actually SO useful!! I’ve been lucky and haven’t had anything go missing yet (touch wood) but if it did, I would have no idea what to do or what I’m entitled to lol. So this is such a handy guide.

  • Nicky

    This is such a great post – getting delayed or lost luggage is always one of my major anxieties when travelling, so it’s good to know that at least I can get a bit of reimbursement for it! Thanks for sharing!

  • Mayi Mac

    Great tips. I got delayed flights before but never my luggage. I knew that you could get reimbursed the purchase of a new outfit while your luggage was lost/delayed with some credit card but not with the airline. I will know what to do and what to claim now. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kaylene Isherwood

    This is super helpful! I honestly wouldn’t know what to do if my luggage was delayed or lost. When I was a kid, my mom and I’s bags once arrived late to our destination, but I haven’t had it happen since. Definitely saving this post for whenever I’m bound to run into this problem.

  • Mary Beth

    Yes, girl! Thanks, I actually didn’t know you could get reimbursed for a delay! This has only happened to me once… tho another time, my kiddo’s stroller came out broken! They paid for that, obvi. Anyway, great tips!

  • Chelsea

    The amount of credit card benefits offered to travelers is amazing! I avoid checking luggage at all costs, but it’s good to know that my Visa card covers delayed luggage.

  • Aireona

    I am honestly so worried about delayed baggage that I just typically try to get everything into my carryon, but it is really good know what my options are if I have to check and this happens.

  • Nicole

    This is such a great plan. Why is it that between the airline and insurance its always a pain? Its great when you can include credit card insurance as well. This is super helpful.

  • Michelle

    Wow! I had no idea this was even an option. Although we usually travel with only a backpack, I could see where this would be very useful for a business traveler such as yourself. Thanks for the great information!

  • Candy

    Knock on wood that I’ve never had luggage missing for more than six hours. I always wondered about the reimbursements. I had a bag gone for more than 24 hours and my airline didn’t provide anything. They claimed I had to wait 48 hours! Luckily, I was traveling back home when my luggage was delayed so I didn’t really need anything in it that was pressing.

  • Claire

    I really need to be better about taking pictures of my bag before I check it, and keeping track of my luggage receipts. I’ve gotten lazy since I’ve never had delayed or lost luggage, but right when you get complacent is usually when these things happen, right? Murphy’s Law

  • Usha

    I had no idea that we were paid for delayed luggage too. It has happened to me once , in fact for a good 12 hours. Thanks for the info.

  • Samantha

    I had my luggage delayed on New Year’s Eve once! In that situation it was not ideal at all, because by the time I got sorted at the customer service desk stores were already starting to close, and I had no outfit for a New Year’s Party. It was a very dressed down New Years that year!

  • Christina

    This is a great essential post for people to read for even the person that flies just once a year. The tips here are very important. You are correct that you don’t necessarily need to go crazy with buying new things hoping the airline will reimburse you for them. You don’t want to get in a battle of what is considered essential and not essential. This is a great post.

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