What to do when your luggage makes it to Seattle, but you don’t

Dec 29, 2022, 2:22 PM | Updated: 3:09 pm
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28: Pristine Floyde searches for a friend's suitcase in a baggage holding area for Southwest Airlines at Denver International Airport on December 28, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. More than 15,000 flights have been canceled by airlines since winter weather began impacting air travel on December 22. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Traveling this holiday season isn’t for the faint of heart with all of the flight delays, cancellations, and ensuing commotion.

Thousands of travelers have been stranded at airports and hotels, desperately trying to make their flights home or to their holiday destination — leading to a potentially big separation between the passenger and their bag.

But there is hope, especially if you kept the sticky barcode tag that comes with your checked luggage ticket (don’t throw yours away!). That bar code is necessary for filing a claim and can tell you where your bag is in the system.

Gamez: How I got back to Seattle after my flight was canceled in Vegas

So what should you do if you can’t find your luggage? 

First things first, you need to contact the airline before you walk out the double doors.

Unfortunately, I have experienced this firsthand. I landed at Sea-Tac after my trip to Hawaii last year and stood at the carousel for 30 minutes, watching bags go around and around. My bag was nowhere in sight. I went to Delta and reported my bag missing immediately. The agent was able to tell me that my bag had made it to Seattle. However, it was nowhere to be found.

The agent and I thought my bag may have been stolen. I had to file a report with Port Authority Police. The officer explained that stolen luggage was a possible theory and that there was nothing I could do but file a report with Port Authority Police and file a lost or stolen baggage claim with Delta to get compensated.

Next, make sure your bag is marked or tagged with something noticeable that really stands out. The New York Times said to put “something unique, like a colorful ribbon, on the outside of their bag. A bright luggage tag, stickers, or reflective tape also can make a suitcase stand out.”

Spike O’Neill from KIRO Nights told me his dad once wrapped his luggage in tape! I wouldn’t suggest you go that far, but you get the idea.

Another suggestion is that you buy unique-looking luggage. The standard luggage color is typically black or slate.

It’s recommended that your luggage stand out. For example, hot pink, green, yellow, and even white are good colors because it will be easier for baggage claim to identify your luggage once it goes missing.

Track your luggage 

Another idea is to track your luggage with a Tile or Apple Air Tag. You can locate your bag immediately if it goes missing, and you can also track your luggage using the airline’s website or app, but that can only go so far.


When I thought my luggage was stolen, I did a lot of leg work to find out how I could get my money back.

It took almost two months because I kept getting the runaround from the baggage desk claim. Hold times were ridiculously long to the tune of three hours. But, when all was said and done, Delta did come through with a check for over $2,200.

I had to fill out a form and itemize all of the lost items and their cost. Certain airlines can also compensate you for needing to buy a few days’ worth of clothes if your luggage was lost.

Don’t check in your luggage

If you don’t want to risk luggage issues, simply don’t check it in, and carry it on board with you. That doesn’t guarantee that your luggage will end up in a bin above your seat because if the plane is full, the airline will check your bag at the gate, but it can still be worth it.

When all is said and done, you have to know your rights when you fly.

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here.

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What to do when your luggage makes it to Seattle, but you don’t