7 On Your Side: What to do if the airline loses your luggage

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Nina Pineda reports on passenger rights when it comes to lost or delayed luggage.

If your luggage is lost, delayed or damaged, airlines will pay you. But it's a negotiation, and it's up to you as the passenger to prove what your stuff's worth. It's up to them to decide what they're going to offer.

If your bag gets lost, you should always ask the airline rep for a cash advance to replace items you're going to need until its found. Some airlines will hand out cash, while others will reimburse you..

We are in the middle of reuniting a teenage passenger with his lost luggage, and it's been a struggle. His mother couldn't even get a phone number that works for the airline's lost and found.

"Horrible," Brenda Bozzone said. "I just can't understand. This day and age with computer and technology, they can't locate a bag."

It has been over a week since Bozzone's son Max has seen his suitcase. The 18-year-old has been stuck in the same clothes because his luggage never made it to Israel for his two-week teen tour.

"They told me the bag will get here in another day," Bozzone said. "They kept saying another day, another day."

It's a familiar refrain frustrating to anyone who's been unexpectedly separated from their luggage, like the thousands of bags that were stranded, waiting to be reunited with their owners after JFK's malfunction following last week's snowstorm.

The U.S. Department of Transportation advises that if your bag doesn't come off the conveyor belt, report the missing luggage to the airline before you leave the airport. Insist they create a report and get a copy. Inquire about delivery charges, and ask for compensation to purchase necessities.

El-Al apologized and offered Max a $100 short-term reimbursement for items he needed to purchase. But he has to provide receipts for the compensation.

After we contacted the airlines, Brenda got a call. Max's luggage was found. Brenda said she was told it never left Newark. She's waiting for the delivery Friday.

Most bags are found, but if yours is declared permanent lost, you'll have to submit a claim to the airline. Make sure you check deadlines. If you miss filing, you could invalidate your claim.

You'll be asked to estimate the value of your possessions and provide documentation like sales receipts. The DOT says don't exaggerate your claim. If the airline feels you are inflating the cost of your bag contents, you'll get denied.

Lastly, consider purchasing excess valuation -- though not all airlines offer this -- if you think your luggage and contents are worth a lot more than liability limits. They vary widely, so you should ask.

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