Lost luggage is a traveller’s worst nightmare. There’s nothing worse than being the last one nervously stood at the luggage carousel after a long flight, waiting for your luggage to emerge. That sinking feeling you get when you realise your luggage isn’t going to arrive on the carousel is the envy of no one, anyone whose luggage has been lost will testify to that.

Although the amount of luggage lost is going down, there is still around 21 million bags lost or “mislaid” every year, equating to seven mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. Because of this, it pays to know what to do if you are unlucky enough to be one of the millions whose luggage is lost every year.

Here is what to do when your luggage is lost during your journey:

Am I going to get my luggage back?

The good thing to know is that you are highly likely to get your luggage back if it is lost. The location of luggage can be tracked using the World Tracer System. This means getting lost luggage back to you is easier than you might think. Most lost luggage, 85% in fact, gets back to its owners within 48 hours.

The tracer system was developed by SITA, a multinational IT and telecommunications company working in the air transport industry. SITA say that the average time it takes to return a lost bag to its owners is actually closer to 32 hours. Because of this, luggage is only actually described as being lost if it has been missing for 100 days, by which point It can no longer be found using the World Tracer System. Otherwise, luggage is just referred to as being “mislaid”.

Only 7% of lost luggage is actually lost, so if you are one of the unlucky ones left without your luggage at the airport, don’t worry. It is an inconvenience to be left without your bags, but relax, follow these simple steps, and chances are, you’ll get your bags back in next to no time at all.

What to do first…

The process tends to vary depending on the airline, but luggage that goes into the hold is the responsibility of the airline, so if your bag is missing, this is who you need to contact.

There is a number of ways you can do this. As well as getting in touch with the airline online or via phone, you will be able to alert staff immediately at the airport. The ground staff will likely direct you to the lost luggage desk. Here, you will be able to report your bag as missing. The staff will ask you for a description of the lost bag, and information of the flight you travelled on; where it came from, which airliner it was, the flight number, and so on. The staff at the desk will then pass this information on to the relevant airline so that they can begin looking for your bag.

Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to swing by the lost luggage desk before leaving the airport, some airliners allow you to complete this report online. However, be wary that not all airliners have this facility.

How will my bag be returned to me?

The World Tracer System is used by over 440 airlines at around 3,000 airports, so chances are this is the system that they will use to get your bag back to you. Each bag is given a unique tracking number, which identifies the the airport the bag came from, and the airline it travelled on, making it much easier to identify your bag.

In the same way that you report your bag once it’s missing, bags that go unclaimed at the luggage carousel get reported by staff. Your description of the bag then gets compared to this database of unclaimed bags to find out where it is. Once your bag has been found, it will be couriered to you immediately.

Keep checking the Cuuver.com blog for more useful travel and insurance tips, and check here to compare travel insurance policies from the UK’s leading providers.

This should not be construed as advice and is for guidance only.