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Losing your luggage while travelling

Airlines losing your luggage can turn a relaxing break into a holiday from hell. With the average value of Brits’ checked-in luggage being £535,1 many of us will have felt the apprehension when the conveyer belt begins to empty and our bags are nowhere to be seen.

Ensuring you have valid travel insurance that covers lost or damaged belongings (whether lost at the airport, at your destination or anywhere en route) is the easiest and most efficient way to bring calmness to an otherwise stressful situation. However, while taking out travel insurance is a quick and relatively inexpensive process, our figures show2 that one in eight of us (12%) have used our own money to replace lost luggage.

MoneySuperMarket analysed complaints made to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over the last five years regarding lost, delayed or damaged luggage to highlight which airports are most and least likely to leave travellers without their belongings.

Lost luggage leader board

When an individual airline is unable to resolve the lost luggage issue, it is then passed onto the CAA. In most cases, lost luggage is recovered and returned to its owner.

According to CAA data for flights to or from UK airports, there have been over 2,000 instances of luggage being lost, delayed or damaged that could not be resolved at the airport.2  

Time frames and total costs

Unsurprisingly Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport (with over 380 million passengers in the last five years3) tops the list. Yet even accounting for the volume of passengers, Heathrow still loses or delays luggage at a rate 397% (or five times higher) higher than the UK average4.

London Luton is the airport least likely to lose luggage, with just 4% of the number of cases reported to the CAA in the past five years, compared to London Heathrow.

Top UK airports for losing or delaying luggage, for airports with over 1,000,000 passengers since 2015

Time frames and total costs

Click to view all locations


Lost/Delayed Luggage Count

Percentage of Luggage Lost

London Heathrow



1 in 500,000 bags

London Gatwick



1 in 750,000 bags




1 in 700,000 bags




1 in 580,000 bags

London Stansted



1 in 2,000,000 bags




1 in 1,140,000 bags

London Luton



1 in 2,500,000 bags




1 in 2,000,000 bags




1 in 1,110,000 bags

London City Airport



1 in 1,140,000 bags




1 in 2,000,000 bags




1 in 1,000,000 bags

Even when taking into consideration airports that have had fewer than 1,000,000 passengers since 2015, London Luton still comes off well. When looking at lost, delayed or damaged bags in proportion to passenger numbers, there have been 27 instances referred to the CAA. This accounts for only 0.00004% of the 75 million passengers who have flown to or from the airport in the last 5 years.

For some of the UK’s smaller airports, the risk of luggage loss is more likely. For example, 0.249% of luggage was lost at Kirkwall airport since 2015, which is a larger proportion than Heathrow (Kirkwall has handled just over 800,000 passengers over the period). Other small airports with a similar risk of luggage loss are Norwich, Aberdeen and Cardiff. However, it’s still only a minimal number of flights that result in passengers complaining to the CAA.

So what is the situation at other airports around the world?

For the many British tourists who make their way to Spain for their holidays, it’s worth being aware that Madrid and Barcelona are in the top three when looking at the amount of lost luggage in proportion to passengers. The CAA data is backed up by our consumer research, which showed that almost a fifth (19%) of lost luggage reports where filed by passengers who had taken flights to or from Spain.

Flights to and from Dublin also come with a relatively high risk of loss, delay or damage for hold luggage. The Irish capital has the highest percentage of passengers to and from the UK who are affected by lost or damaged luggage.

Top worldwide airports for losing luggage on flights to/from the UK

Time frames and total costs

Click to view all locations


Lost/Delayed Luggage Count

Percentage of Lost Luggage Proportional to Number of Passengers 




1 in 3,300,000 bags




1 in 5,000,000 bags




1 in 3,300,000 bags

Rome Fiumicino



1 in 5,000,000 bags




1 in 5,000,000 bags




1 in 10,000,000 bags




1 in 2,500,000 bags

Paris Charles De Gaulle



1 in 10,000,000 bags

How long does it take for lost luggage to be returned?

So, what happens if your bag is lost? This is the situation that many of us have been in, with the average wait for the airline to locate the lost item and return it to your home being 7.8 days.5

In fact, when luggage does go missing, 8% of respondents said the items were never returned – it’s in these instances that travel insurance becomes vital.

However, MoneySuperMarket research shows that 12% of people have had to pay to replace baggage lost by an airline because they did not have travel insurance. However, passengers are also able to claim compensation from the airline if luggage is lost or damaged after check-in.

Travel insurance doesn’t just cover lost items, but also those damaged by the airline in transit. It’s more common for items to be damaged than lost completely, with 62% of people surveyed claiming they have experienced this at least once in their lifetime. In fact, nearly a third (32%) have had luggage damaged on a flight to or from the UK on more than one occasion.

While the airline or travel insurance covers these costs on the majority of occasions (26% and 22% respectively), 16% of travellers have needlessly paid for damaged goods out of their own pocket.

Travel insurance claims for missing luggage

Wherever you’re travelling to, it’s worth taking a little time to make sure you’ve taken out the right travel insurance policy that will cover you in all eventualities, including instances of baggage being lost, delayed in transit or damaged.

Shopping around and comparing the best deals has the added benefit of making sure there’s more money in your pocket to enjoy your trip. You can do this by comparing travel insurance quotes to find the right one for you.

Just in case your luggage is lost…

To minimise the impact if your bags go missing when you’re flying, there are some simple steps to follow and here are some of them:

Luggage tags

Luggage tags

While your hold luggage will be logged on the airline’s system when you check-in, it’s always good to have a back-up. Luggage tags that clearly display your name, address and contact number are a good way to help the airline get your bags back to you.


Make an inventory

If possible, it’s good to know exactly what is in your bag and how much it would cost to replace. That way, if your bags go missing, you’ll be able to make an accurate claim on your travel insurance policy.


Seek written confirmation from staff

If your bags are lost, seek assistance at the airport and ensure you have written confirmation of the next steps. Often, airlines have ready-made information sheets for this purpose containing key phone numbers and contact details. Just make sure you’ve received an individual query number before you leave the airport.

Suitcase with padlock symbol

Double-check your travel insurance

Most policies will cover lost or damaged belongings as standard, but checking to make sure you’re covered is the best way to put your mind at ease.

Check out our handy guide to help you decide what type of baggage cover you will need for your trip.

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1 Consumer sentiment research carried out by Research Without Barriers between 26th September 2019 and 30th September 2019. The sample comprised 2,005 UK adults who have flown in/out of a UK airport to go on holiday in the last 12 months.

2 Lost, delayed or damaged luggage stats according to Civil Aviation Authority data from 2015 to 2019

3 Airport footfall figures according to CAA data:





4 The average number of lost, delayed or damaged items for UK airports with over 1,000,000 passengers since 2015 is 128.

5 According to consumer sentiment research

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