Insuring Checked Luggage When Flying

shutterstock_146404070Recently, I received a call from a customer who had just flown with his family from the U.S. to India, and, to put it mildly, he was in a panic. Together, the family of 4 had checked 7 bags on their Air India flight. In addition to clothes and personal items, family members had put everything from cameras to laptops into the luggage they checked. Now, none of their 7 bags had arrived in India with them.

Were the bags merely delayed? The airline assured the man that this was the case, but the man also learned that it would take the airline more than 24 hours to get the bags to him and his family.

What if the situation were worse, he wondered. What if the bags were lost forever? Or, if found and delivered, would valuables be missing, taken by any of many handlers from government inspectors to airport employees?

It would be one thing if this family’s experience were an aberration. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 1.9 million checked bags were “mishandled” (either delayed, lost, damaged, or stolen) during domestic flights alone in 2011. This number isn’t small, of course. But the good news is that—due to improved tracking technology and fewer checked bags overall—it has been decreasing in recent years.

The Warsaw Convention limits the airlines liability for lost bags  to about $9.07 per pound for a maximum of $640. Unfortunately, this will barely cover the cost to replace your suitcase, let alone even 25% of the clothes inside. This is why you need extra baggage coverage when traveling abroad.

An Excellent Plan for Insuring Checked Luggage

Luckily for our customer and his family, they not only had purchased travel insurance for this trip but they had selected one of the best policies to address this kind of problem—the U.S. Fire Insurance Platinum Plan.

What’s so special about this plan? Well, it offers a level of coverage that few other plans provide. While most travel insurance will cover people if their luggage is lost, damaged, or stolen, the Platinum Plan will cover them for trip losses incurred because of a baggage delay. Specifically, it will cover each insured family member’s personal expenses for clothing and toiletries up to $250 a day for 2 days incurred while waiting to receive delayed baggage—a much more likely scenario. So, in this case, the family will get a total of $1000 per day for clothes, personal items, and other things they might need until their baggage is delivered. If the baggage is lost or damaged, the Platinum Plan will also cover each insured person for up to $2500 in losses, including items such as jewelry and the luggage bags themselves as well as clothes. For more information on the Platinum Plan, check out the “Compare” page on the TripInsurance.com site and click the U.S. Fire insurance “Best” plan.

Other Baggage Strategies

While it’s extremely comforting to know that an insurance plan such as this exists, we also strongly encourage travelers to explore other baggage options when flying. These reduce the chances of potential vacation catastrophes due to delayed, lost, stolen or damaged baggage, and they also mean that you might not need such a high level of travel insurance coverage.

One choice is to put essential items in a carry-on bag and, after you check your other bags, bring this on the plane with you. Not only should these essential items include laptops, cameras, jewelry, and important travel documents such as passports and travel insurance certificates, but these should also include clothes and other critical personal items for at least a couple of days. If your luggage is delayed, you won’t feel quite as stranded.

Another choice is simply not to check baggage. This might seem radical, especially if you will be away for more than a week. But, if you really think it through, you and your fellow travelers can definitely do it. Why am I so certain about this? Because I’ve done it many times, even on long trips with my wife and two children. When you really think about it, it’s amazing how much you can carry on if you have the right kinds of bags (each person can carry on 2 bags, by the way) and it’s amazing how much you don’t really need to take with you. A few months ago, we posted a blog listing carry-on tips for a business traveler, and most of these tips can easily apply to vacationers. Many of our readers have found this post particularly informative. The odds are that you will too. Check out ways to travel with only carry-on baggage.

If you have questions about insuring for mishandled luggage, we would be happy to answer them. Just call us at 1-877-219-8169 or email us at support@tripinsurance.com. We’ll be delighted to help even if you’ve already purchased your travel insurance from someone else. Our goal is to help people travel with confidence knowing that they’ve made the travel insurance decision that’s right for them.

Finally, if you have a baggage strategy when flying you would like to share with us, we’re all ears. Just add a comment to this post.