Consumer Alert: Lost luggage

(National) December 14, 2006 - Travelers beware: get ready for what could be the busiest Christmas holiday for travel.

A survey by the Travel Industry Association and AAA says that 65 million people will be traveling somewhere between December 23rd and January 2nd. That's 1.5 million more than last year.

The reason for the increase? The small increase in gas prices, air fare and hotel rates.

The survey estimates that 53 million people will be driving, nine million will fly and another three million will travel by bus or train.

Janet McDermott and her family were on a trip recently when the airline lost their bags.

"We got off our flight and went to the luggage carousel, as one does, and waited and waited and watched and watched, and the luggage didn't show up," she said.

Most lost luggage eventually gets returned, but that's small consolation for having to go days without your belongings.

Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman has ways you can help protect yourself when bags go AWOL, "If you're checking your bags, put a note in each bag that has contact information and a copy of your itinerary. That way it'll be easy for the airline to know where your bags are supposed to go."

And if your bags don't arrive, go directly to the airline's customer service to report it.

"Airlines aren't required to do anything for you if your bags are just misplaced or delayed, but it doesn't hurt to ask. The key is don't scream, don't get belligerent, just be nice about it."

First, be firm about what you'll need till your bags arrive, such as a suit for a business meeting. If an employee gives you permission to make purchases, get his or her name. And if you do make purchases you'll want to be reimbursed for, be sure to save the receipts.

The McDermott's had travel insurance, so the clothes they had to purchase were covered.

Insurance can cost about five to seven percent of the cost of your trip, but the peace of mind can be worth it.

And if you're one of the millions flying over the holidays, you'll want to take extra precautions to make sure your luggage isn't lost.

Latest statistics from the Department of Transportation show more than 380,000 bags went astray in the month of September alone, nearly double what it was a year ago.

Consumer Reports says airlines sometimes offer miles or ticket vouchers to passengers with lost luggage. If this happens to you, be sure to check the restrictions. Tight deadlines and excessive block-out dates can make those miles hard to use.

Posted 1:38pm by Bryce Mursch

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