Q. My daughter's luggage was lost during a recent flight on American Airlines, and it contained several items worth a few thousand dollars. The airline is only willing to give her $600 to cover the loss! Needless to say, she is not pleased. And we don't understand how the luggage was 'lost' in the first place! It was a non-stop flight! What ever happened to those people who used to check your luggage tag to your claim number as you left the baggage carousel? We've also heard rumors that there's a whole industry around reselling stolen, or presumably "lost" luggage, at warehouses in the south. What can we do?

A. Most airlines have done away with baggage area claim checkers, in part as a cost saving measure. Anyone can walk away with someone else's luggage and only common human decency prevents this from happening more often. If you check valuable luggage, you either have to take your chances or take out insurance. Airlines sell excess valuation insurance when you check in your bags, but most people don't realize this. American Airlines for example charges $2 for each additional $100 of insurance. So, for $40, your daughter could have protected her $2000 worth of valuables. A small price to pay considering the circumstances. Within the US, you're covered for up to $3,300 in lost baggage.

As for the luggage warehouse in the south, I'm guessing you must be talking about the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama? To our knowledge, they're running an entirely legitimate show, with luggage that was never claimed and genuinely lost. And Tracy, our on-staff former baggage handler at Atlanta's Hartsfield International, can attest to the number of lost bags out there, somehow left behind in the frenzy of unloading and loading luggage carts...unmarked, with no name tags, no return address, kept for so many days in a special fenced-in, locked-up area under the airport. True, you're chances of losing a bag are higher when you're making a connection, but always put your name and address on a luggage tag, as well as inside your bag.

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