You’re standing at a baggage carousel for what seems like forever when the steady flow of bags onto the conveyor belt slows to a trickle, then stops. Your bags are nowhere in sight. Or your bags do show up, but look like an angry gorilla has been throwing them around his cage for sport. Who’s responsible for your damaged, delayed or lost luggage?

Damaged Baggage

Once you’ve gotten your bags off the carousel, immediately check them for damage or other signs of tampering or mishandling. Report any damage before leaving the airport; airline customer service agents will often want to inspect the bag. Keep in mind that most airlines won’t cover minor wear and tear.

Stolen Bags

Head directly to the baggage carousel when you get off your flight to minimize the potential time for your bag to be stolen. Many airlines scan bags when they’re loaded into the baggage claim area and keep records, especially at larger airports. If your bag goes missing after you’ve left the baggage claim area, your claim is no longer with the airline, but with the police. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover a stolen suitcase; if it doesn’t, consider purchasing travel insurance.

Delayed Luggage

If your bags are delayed, try not to panic. The airlines typically have ways to track them, and the vast majority of misplaced luggage is returned eventually. If your bags are on the next flight, you could have them within a few hours. If they’ve been sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days. Make sure to file your claim immediately at the airport and to give the attendant a hotel or home address, as well as a phone number where you can be reached.

The airlines will typically bring you your luggage when it is found; you will rarely need to return to the airport to pick it up. Additionally, many airlines will reimburse any unexpected expenses caused by the loss or delay (keep your receipts!).