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Lost a ticket, passport or your luggage? Flight just been cancelled? A few tips from travelers, pilots, flight attendants and travel agents to help you navigate the system...
- Flight Problems
- Lost Passport
- Lost Photo I.D.
- Lost Boarding Pass
- Lost Airplane Ticket
- Lost / Damaged Luggage

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Flight Problems

Flight Overbooked or Delayed
If you are bumped from a flight, usually you will be compensated for the cost of the flight but policies vary from airline to airline. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do.

WHN TIP: Delayed Flight Options

If you think your flight will be delayed or cancelled due to a forecasted weather event like a blizzard or hurricane, call the airline. They may allow customers to use their tickets on earlier flights or wait on standby.

If you have to make a connecting flight:

  1. Check to see how much time the plane is delayed and whether or not that change would affect your connection time.
  2. Ask the gate agent if there is anything that can be done to accommodate your situation. Sometimes you could be moved to a different flight on the same or different airline.
  3. Understand that if you do make the connecting flight, your checked baggage might not. This is a common cause for delayed baggage. If this is the case, it’ll be put on the next flight out (see Lost/Damaged Luggage section).

Make phone calls.

  1. Call those who might be waiting to meet your flight at your destination airport and let them know you’re running late.
  2. Also, call your hotel if your reservation is for a specific time. Tell them that your flight's delayed and when you expect to arrive.
  3. Call the rental car company if you have a reservation for a specific time. Tell them that your flight's delayed and when you expect to arrive.

Flight Cancelled

WHN TIP: Cancelled Flight Options

If you think your flight will be delayed or cancelled due to a forecasted weather event like a blizzard or hurricane, call the airline. They may allow customers to use their tickets on earlier flights or wait on standby.

  1. START DIALING
    • Call the airline or travel agent as soon as you learn your flight is canceled. It'll help you get rebooked ahead of other passengers. Go here for a list of reservations/ticketing phone numbers for the major U.S. airlines.
    • If you have travel insurance you should call your travel insurance agent as well to start the claim process.
    • If you don’t have a phone head to the flight desk and ask about arrangements.
    • If you need to stay overnight, call hotels to make reservations. Ask about where and when to meet the airport shuttle.
  2. If you found out via e-mail: Read this message carefully as it may notify you of changes to your travel plans (i.e. being moved to a later flight).

Make phone calls.

  1. Call those who might be waiting to meet your flight at your destination airport and let them know your flight has been cancelled.
  2. Also, call your hotel if you had reservations. Tell them that your flight's cancelled and when you expect to arrive.
  3. Call the rental car company if you had reservations. Tell them that your flight's cancelled and when you expect to arrive.


Lost Passport

If you have lost your passport while in the U.S., go here for instructions from the State Department.

If you have lost your passport while traveling abroad, you should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.

  1. You can also find phone numbers in a phone book, or ask at a train, bus or airport for the embassy location. You can also return to the place you are staying at, they may be able to connect you to the embassy.
  2. Ask to speak to the American Citizens Services unit.
    • Ask where you can obtain the required passport photos. Also, provide them with details regarding your departure schedule.
    • Get the agent's name and direct extension for when you call back or go in.
    • If it is a weekend or holiday (the embassy/consulate will be closed) and you are in a life or death situation, contact the after hours duty officer.
    • You will need to go to the embassy or consulate in order to complete a new passport application.
      • If you have your photocopies of your passport, bring these along with you.
      • Bring along important documents that prove who you are and where you’re from (driver’s license, birth certificate, membership IDs, airplane ticket, etc.)
      • You can also bring witnesses or ask an officer/consulate to contact a friend or relative in the United States who can vouch for you.
    • The process may take a few hours or a few days and you will have to pay an application fee.

Lost Photo I.D.

All passengers age 18 and older are required by federal law to present government-issued photo identification (driver's license, passport, state I.D.) when checking in.

If you don’t have a photo I.D. (either lost or stolen) two forms of identification will be required, one of which must be government-issued (i.e. your social security card and an airline membership card).

If you don't have either of these things, talk to the airline ticket agent - policies will vary depending on the airline.

Lost Boarding Pass

If you have lost your boarding pass, you may request another one at the airport ticket counter or kiosk. If you have already gone through security, ask the gate agent for your flight for assistance.

Lost Airplane Ticket

If you had an e-ticket, you should be able to print out your information at an internet kiosk. Also, the airline ticket counter agent should be able to look up your information for you.

If you had a paper ticket:

  1. If you prepared ahead, you should have a photocopy of your airplane ticket. Get this photocopy ready.
  2. Call or tell the airline and let them know you’ve lost your ticket. They will help you to make arrangements for a replacement ticket. You also may have to pay an additional fee for the replacement ticket.
  3. If you booked your trip through a travel agent, give them a call. They can make all the necessary calls for you.

Stolen ticket

  • If your ticket is stolen, you can file a report with the local police. There might not be a lot that they can do for you. Ask for a copy of the report for your records - you could possibly be reimbursed.
  • Notify the airline that your ticket was stolen. Ask what their policies are regarding this situation (i.e. reissuing another ticket, reimbursement, etc.).

Lost / Damaged Luggage

  1. Be smart, be patient. Most likely your luggage isn’t lost, just delayed.
    • If it is on the next flight or at another airport, it could arrive in just a few hours or over the next few days.
  2. Your airline will have a customer service area near the baggage carousel/baggage claim area. Explain your problem to the airline agent in a calm and clear manner.

    Flight Cancelled

    WHN TIP: Baggage Claim Numbers

    Have your baggage claim number – this would have been given to you when you first checked in and received your boarding pass(es).

    • Delayed/lost luggage: Tell the agent what flight you were on, which airport(s) you were coming from/connecting through and give a good detailed description of your bag.
    • Damaged luggage: In the case of damaged baggage, airline customer service will often want to inspect the bag. You will need to keep repair receipts for reimbursement purposes.
    • Stolen luggage: The airlines scan bags when they're loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records - so your bag might just be lost, not stolen. If it is stolen, you should call the local police to file a police report.
    • Stolen items from your luggage: Many airlines have a clause in their terms and conditions saying that they do not accept responsibility for perishable or valuable items e.g. cameras and jewellery. It can be very difficult to get any compensation for missing items, often because it is almost impossible to prove that the items were there in the first place. You might also need to file a claim with the local police.
  3. If your bag is lost/damaged/stolen, you can also file a report with the airline. When you file a report, most airlines will give you a claim number and ask that you call or write the airline within a few weeks.
  4. Also, keep a copy of your letters and write down the name of any airline agents you speak with, dates, times and details of all conversations.
  5. If you have to buy items in the meantime (toiletries, clothes, etc.), keep the receipts in case you're reimbursed by the airline or by your insurance company (travel or homeowner’s).
  6. Contact your travel or homeowner's insurance agent and consider filing a claim (understand that this might increase your rates).
Thank you ...

A special thank you to the industry professionals, travel agents and travelers who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Reviewed 1/2009


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