There’s a unique kind of relief that floods your body when you see your suitcase slowly rotating toward you on the baggage carousel, coming back like a loyal pet (or a cold sore). If you’ve listened to our advice, there’s no reason you should ever lose your luggage again, but with a seemingly endless stream of stories about airlines who have forgotten almost a full day’s worth of luggage or temporarily misplaced several show dogs, it’s worth looking into what you should do if it happens to you. Here are the best ways to handle it (right after you shake your clenched fist toward the sky):

Pull Out that Baggage Claim Tag: The sticker or piece of perforated cardboard you got when you checked your bag is the most important part of this process (if, like me, you lose everything that isn’t stapled to your body, take a picture of it when you check in at your departure airport). When you contact customer service, you’ll need that number.

Don’t Leave the Airport: The carrier responsible for your missing bag is the one that flew you to your final destination. Chances are, their baggage-claims office is somewhere near the luggage carousel that just betrayed you.

Be Detailed: Know the exact description of your bag (a picture helps), and double check the report to make sure all of the information about your departure, arrival and connecting flights is correct. “Duh,” right? But listing the wrong flight number or airline code might mean that you’re waiting even longer for your bag to catch up with you. And be polite when you’re in the claims office. Yes, you’re irritated and inconvenienced, but the guy behind the desk isn’t at fault.

Ask About Compensation: If your bag won’t arrive within a reasonable amount of time (and the definition of “reasonable” can vary from carrier to carrier; Delta, for example, defines it as twelve hours) then you might be entitled to reimbursements. The U.S. Department of Transportation writes in its Fly Rights Guide:

Most carriers set guidelines for their airport employees that allow them to disburse some money at the airport for emergency purchases. The amount depends on whether or not you’re away from home and how long it takes to track down your bags and return them to you. If the airline does not provide you a cash advance, it may still reimburse you later for the purchase of necessities. Discuss with the carrier the types of articles that would be reimbursable, and keep all receipts

Just limit yourself to toiletries, a toothbrush and possibly a pair of clean underwear. You’re not getting reimbursed for new headphones, shoes, or Lasik surgery. Also, talk to the agent about a refund on your baggage fee. Chances are, you paid $25-$35 to check that bag, so it’s not unreasonable (our definition) to ask for a refund. Whether you get actual cash back, though, is up to the carrier. Delta will give you a voucher to use for checking a bag on a future flight.

Turn to Social Media: Send a tweet to the airline’s customer service department while you’re waiting in line and you might get a response before it’s your turn in the baggage-claim office, and there’s a very good chance that someone will respond before you get an operator on a 1-800-number.

Check Your Apps: You can track checked luggage from your phone with some carriers’ apps. One show-dog owner used FlyDelta to discover that his well-groomed travel companion hadn’t been loaded onto a flight out of JFK airport.

Try to Stay Calm: According to the DoT, last year U.S. airlines averaged 3.62 reports of mishandled (defined as lost, damaged or delayed) baggage for every 1,000 passengers. Yes, that comes out to around 2 million bags but — even if you’re standing in baggage claim freaking out — there’s a very, very good chance that you and your suitcase are going to be reunited. But go ahead and shake your fist anyway.

Original Article here