As air travel ramps up during the holidays and reports of lost luggage still abound, it’s important to be prepared. Losing luggage, especially one that contains your prosthetic limb, is stressful. It could derail your travel plans, and getting your prosthetic limb remade won’t be easy, especially with insurance companies involved.
A prosthetic user, Emily Tuite, lost her bright blue suitcase during her flight from Austin to San Diego back in September. The bag contained her waterproof prosthetic leg, and she planned to use the costly, custom medical device to do everything from showering to swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, the luggage never made it to Tuite’s destination. The incident ruined her trip, most of which was spent on the phone, talking to Allegiant Airlines’ staff to locate her missing bag.
The stress Tuite experienced is primarily due to how expensive and time-consuming it is to get her prosthetic leg made. “It can take over a year to have a leg made,” Tuite said. “It’s not easy with insurance to have medical devices remade for you.”
Twelve days after Tuite lost her suitcase, she finally got a call that the airline had found her bag. Somehow, her luggage had another passenger’s information, and it had been in the baggage claim at the Provo Airport in Utah for almost two weeks.
Allegiant Airlines apologized to Tuite for the bag mishandling, giving her a $60 refund, which covers her baggage fees. In addition, the airlines also asked Tuite to submit receipts for compensation.
Tuite, however, was disappointed with the airlines’ response. “It’s frustrating to think that there’s no other compensation for losing someone’s medical device for 12 days,” she said.
Below, we offer a few tips so you can keep your prosthetic devices safe during your travels.
Check your bag only when you must
Prosthetic limbs can be heavy, so understandably, you may want to check in your bag. But if you don’t have to bring a lot of stuff on your trip, it might be best to go the hand-carry route. Or you can hand carry only the essentials, like your prosthetic limb, a travel-sized amputee survival kit, and some medications and hygiene essentials, while you may choose to check in your other items.
It's worth contacting the airlines too, because some will allow you to bring an oversized bag containing your prosthetic limb as a carry-on. They'll issue a one-time permission to bring it onboard so that it never leaves your sight.
However, continue reading if you absolutely must check your prosthetic limb.
Double-check your bag’s tag info
Before your bag hits the conveyor after check-in, check the tag and confirm it has the correct destination airport code. This only takes a second, and it gives you some peace of mind that your luggage is at least going to the same airport as you.
Choose to travel non-stop or with longer layovers
If you must choose between a more expensive non-stop flight, an affordable flight with a longer layover, or an inexpensive flight with a shorter layover, you might be inclined to choose the latter. But if that layover is less than an hour and you have checked your luggage, you should rethink your decision.
Choose your flight depending on your needs. If you need to get to your destination fast, springing for the more expensive non-stop flight is best. But if you need to save money, go for the more extended layover. These two options give you the best chance of keeping your luggage safe.
Keep your information on and inside your bag
Secure a sturdy luggage tag with your essential information—name, email, and phone number. Airline staff typically don’t deliver lost luggage to an address without contacting the owner first, so feel free to skip adding your address.
You can also put your contact information inside your bag in case the luggage tag gets separated from the bag. This ensures that someone can still reach you if your luggage gets lost.
Consider using smart tags
The experience of losing a suitcase led Tuite to decide to put Apple AirTags in her luggage on her next trip. This way, she can always track where her bag is. If you want to go this route, you don’t have to get AirTags. Other great options include the Chipolo One and Chipolo One Spot, Cube Shadow and Cube GPS Tracker, Samsung Galaxy SmartTage and SmartTag Plus, and Tile Pro. Do your research and see what works best for you.