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Travel Tips: What the Airlines Don’t Tell You about Lost Luggage

My husband and I love to travel, domestically and internationally. I’d consider us a well-traveled pair, airport connoisseurs, and pretty savvy on the go, whether we speak the language of our visiting place or not.

We live to plan vacations- three-day weekends, long trips, short trips, any trips; any time we can leave town and see a new city, we are bags-packed ready to go. Domestic travel, we’ve got it down to a fine art. We spent 12 days traveling between four European cities last year, with very few hiccups, so naturally, we felt we had this whole international traveling thing down as well.

Cue Europe trip 2018.

We LOVE Italy. Italy is totally our country. (Ill have more on our Italian adventures in later posts). So when I mentioned the Greek island of Santorini to my husband as an idea for our Europe trip this year, it took A LOT of convincing to get him on board. I swear if it were up to him, we would split our time between Nashville and Italy. So I was on a mission to plan the best week in Santorini, hoping to convince him there are other European countries we may love, just like we love Italy.

I spent MONTHS planning this year’s trip. We were planning on visiting Santorini for six days, then spending our remaining six days in Florence before returning back to our lives in Nashville. Our annual big trips are gold to us. Our Nashville lives are busy, hectic, and stressful, so making sure we take time away from the chaos to spend time together is huge for our sanity and marriage. Ya’ll know me. All the outfits were purchased, photographers were scheduled (hello Christmas card 2018!), excursions were booked. It was going to be the trip of a lifetime. Everything I had read about Santorini screamed Megan, and I was going to live my best week and take the most amazing, magazine-worthy photos. And, of course, relax with my husband and make memories we would talk about for years.

We should have guessed the trip wasn’t going to go as planned when our plane taking off from Miami to London literally had to re-boot on the runway. Re-boot. Strike one. We had a nine-hour flight to London, followed by a quick four-hour flight to Santorini, switching from American Airline to British Airways in London.

This is where the wheels started to fall off, figuratively, not literally, thank God, and our trip took a turn.

We landed in beautiful Santorini at 4pm, following the crowds to the baggage collection area. Both of us standing at the carousel with carry-ons in hand, ready to start our best trip yet; our bags would be coming out any minute. Minutes past and turned into ten minutes, then 15 minutes, then we saw the same bags on the carousel with each circling, yet we hadn’t spotted our bags yet.

I wasn’t panicked. I was confused. Seriously. We have taken countless flights, and our bags have shown up every time. It never even crosses our minds when we pack that our bags may not be on the same flight we are.

Unfortunately, the streak ended in Santorini.

We approached an airport worker, let her know neither of our bags were on the carousel, and she ushered us to the baggage claims desk.

Shoot! What a freaking bummer.

But can’t keep this couple down. We filled out the lost baggage form, as we were advised to do, and we took a taxi to Oia, our home for the next six days. We checked into our amazing cave, and found ourselves game planning. I mentioned we had our carry-ons at least, right? Well, because our track record with the flight industry was great, our carry-on luggage provided almost no comfort to us – my husband had packed only shoes in his carry-on, and I had packed a few handbags, sandals, and one pair of workout clothes (because I NEVER work out on vacation, even though every time, I swear to myself I will). No toiletries, no fresh undergarments, no change of clothes, no face wash, no dry shampoo (you can gasp now). You get the gist.

Still not panicking, we phoned British Airways, who sent us to American Airlines (because it was apparently their misstep because they hadn’t transferred our bags for our final flight to Santorini), and eventually we took ourselves to dinner, feeling fairly confident all the right people were on the job. The airline had confirmed our bags were in London-Hethrow, so our confidence level they would be on the next flight was high. Tonight would be tough, but tomorrow our suitcases would be here, and we would officially be on vacation.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Day two. We rented a car to drive the 30 minutes to the airport because no one was answering the phone and we needed to know if our bags were on the next flight from London to Santorini. There was one British Airways flight from London to Santorini, landing daily at 4pm. To put it bluntly, we had one daily shot at 4pm to get our bags, or we knew our next shot would be the following afternoon. No pressure. Long story short, our bags weren’t on the recently landed British Airways flight. So we drove back we drove back to Oia, went to a local shop, and bought a fresh change of clothes before we headed to dinner. Still no dry shampoo.

We felt a tad defeated. Not completely defeated, but we were ticked. Fresh clothes had us back on track, though, and we were bound to go eat and drink our feelings at an amazing dinner. Great food fixes anything, am I right?

On the walk down to Amoudi Bay, the Southern gods spoke. We ran into two darling women from Arkansas. Ya’ll. What are the odds? Four Americans crossing paths on the Amoudi steps. We were instant friends. We of course poured our hearts out about our delayed/ lost luggage and British Airways inability to provide guidance or resolution to our issue.

This conversation changed our entire trip. Our new friends had let us in on airline secret. Something British Airways hadn’t mentioned to us in any of our multiple calls we had made regarding our baggage situation. Something we wish we would have known prior to that would have made a positive impact day one. We said our goodbyes to our Arkansas friends, continued down to dinner at Amoudi Bay, all while looking forward to calling British Airways the following day.

To fast forward through the rest of our time in Santorini, my husband’s suitcase arrived at the end of day three, and mine arrived at the end of day five- in just enough time for us to pack all our Italy clothing options in our carry-ons to prep for our morning flight to Florence.

I hugged the lady at the airport when we picked up my suitcase. Like, a real hug. I meant that hug. I was relieved to have all my items so we could continue to Florence, and continue our trip.

Even though we both had our suitcases, and we were leaving Greece to continue our Italian dreams, we were still livid. We had spent much of our five days in Santorini either at the airport or on the phone with the airlines trying to locate our bags or figure out why they weren’t on the last flight. It was infuriating to think of how much time we wasted because of this.

If I could start a 24-hour hotline for every person with delayed or lost luggage, I would. Until that day arrives, I want to share tips of what we wish we had known before this trip, and what we will do if this every happens again.

  1. Fill out the forms required by the airline to report lost or delayed baggage. You cant skip this step or the airlines wont take your calls and claims.
  2. Phone the last airline you took to your destination to find our their policy for delayed or lost luggage and whether a per diem or expense reimbursement is within their policy. In our case, it was confusing because we had taken American Airlines (AA) AND British Airways (BA), but BA was our flight to Santorini, so through some digging, we concluded BA is ultimately responsible for the luggage. Ask the airline what their policy is for delayed luggage. MOST airlines have a policy of either paying out a daily per diem for delayed luggage or they will reimburse you for basic necessities you purchase while your luggage is delayed. This is the tip we received from our Arkansas friends. We had phoned BA no less than 10 times before this conversation and not one time did they tell us they would reimburse us for expenses spend on basic necessities while our bags were delayed. It will make or break your trip to have clean and appropriate clothes (let me tell you, Lululemon sweatpants and sweatshirts are NOT appropriate or comfortable for island life, only airplanes). Some airlines will give you a daily per diem, just make sure you know which one your airline offers and all the details on what you need to submit for your claim when you return.
  3. Keep all receipts and make notes on them for which day and items you purchased.We purchased clothes, sunscreens, face and body washes, undergarments, swim clothes, sandals, etc. All things we justly needed for 5 days on an island. Even if you think your charge is questionable (for example, the cost of the international phone plan you had to purchase to call all responsible parties), keep and record that.
  4. Don’t forget your phone plan.We thought we had an international phone plan, but when we would try and call London (England) from Santorini (Greece) it would give us a weird error message. We finally figured out we had the plan that allowed us to call the US and whatever country we were currently in, but we had to upgrade to the full international plan to call all European countries.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the airlines claims and reimbursement systems and timelines.This is where the rest of the headache lies. Each airline has different procedures for claims and reimbursement. I recommend looking up the claims guidelines and timelines as soon as you talk with the airline, because if you miss the deadline for reimbursement, there may not be much more you can do. For BA, your claim has to be submitted within 21 days of receiving your luggage. Not 21 days from the end of your trip. So if you receive your luggage in the middle of a longer trip like ours, you may not have as much time as you think to file your claim.
  6. Know the higher powers and your passenger rights.Each country has different levels of passenger rights. The US and Europe both have pretty good rights for airline passengers, so knowing those will help you in the long run. After filing your claim with the airline for reimbursement of expenses, if you don’t hear back in a designated amount of time, you can reach out for additional help from third-party entities who will then facilitate your claim with the airline, which is a huge help. Many people will get frustrated with flowing up with the airline and give up. KEEP GOING! Whats also awesome about these two entities – their passenger rights extend far beyond delayed luggage. They also guide you for overbooked and delayed flights, all baggage issues, and more.

Link to passenger rights and help for flights in or leaving the US: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

Link to passenger rights and help for flights in or leaving Europe: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm

Despite all of this craziness, we loved Santorini. We also learned a handful of valuable lessons we will never forget. Travel on, friends!

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