Southwest travel meltdown: What to do if your luggage is lost

As thousands of travelers are still trying to get to their destinations, a huge sea of luggage has stacked up at airports across the country.

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It was so bad that a Tampa-area science teacher took it upon herself to help reunite luggage with the rightful owners, Business Insider reported.

Brittany Loubier-Vervisch and her husband were looking for their suitcases when they were trying to get from Tampa to Tucson after the holiday storm canceled their plans to visit family in Ohio.

They had to cancel their Tucson flight and while Loubier-Vervisch’s husband tried to get their luggage back, the woman started to look for her bags herself. That’s when she had the idea to start texting phone numbers listed on luggage tags.

Loubier-Vervisch said she was “just trying to help people so they knew where their bags were because people were all over the United States.”

It took about four hours after canceling their flight that Loubier-Vervisch and her husband had their own bags in their possession, Business Insider reported.

A Southwest spokesperson told WMAQ that “baggage is certainly one of those things that is difficult to recover in the immediate aftermath of an operational disruption.”

So if you find yourself in a similar situation — without someone who is as kind-hearted as Loubier-Vervisch to help — what can you do to get your bags back?

WMAQ reported that Southwest is following “standard procedures for returning baggage during irregular operations” and is telling customers to visit the airline’s lost or damaged baggage webpage for help.

Travelers need to report missing luggage within four hours of arriving at their destination.

Passengers can also visit the baggage service office at the airport where an agent will create a report and give a receipt. If within five days, the luggage has not been found, travelers then will fill out a form on Southwest Baggage Claim Web Portal.

If the bag is found, then Southwest will deliver it to a location “of your choice.” However, one passenger told The Wall Street Journal that employees informed her that she would have to retrieve her luggage from Boston Logan International Airport.

For more information on Southwest’s lost or damaged baggage policy, visit the airline’s help center.

The company said it is “experiencing abnormally high call volumes,” WMAQ reported.

While it may be too late now, for future travel, consider using a tracking device such as an Apple AirTag to track your own baggage, to find out where it is and to make sure it stays there until you get it back in your possession, The New York Times reported before the air-travel meltdown.

WTSP reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation also has some guidelines impacted passengers should be aware of, including:

  • The airlines are responsible for finding the bag and have systems in place to help track it.
  • Some airlines have tracking available through an app.
  • Passengers should file a baggage claim as soon as they can and stay in contact with the airline while the bag is being located.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg suggests that impacted travelers file a complaint on the department’s Aviation Consumer Protection website.

WBBM reported that airlines are liable for damages for delayed, lost or damaged checked bags

Southwest’s Chief Executive Bob Jordan posted a video statement saying that the company is trying to get back to standard service.

“We’re focused on safely getting all the pieces back into position to end this rolling struggle,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Clearly we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so we never again face what’s happening right now.”

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