If you're flying this summer, you may have to surrender most of your luggage before boarding; several airlines began limiting carry-ons last year to expedite boarding and eliminate cabin clutter.
Whether you'll ever see your checked-in suitcases again may depend on which airline you're flying, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Among the major carriers, United Airlines ranked the highest in mishandled baggage in 1997.
However, United's move to limit carry-ons to one bag on certain flights last year emboldened other airlines to take similar actions.
If your luggage is lost, it helps to know the rules, says Terry Trippler, editor of The Airfare Report in Minneapolis. Carriers must file their policies with the DOT and make them available to passengers. Generally, an airline will reimburse you up to $1,250 for a lost suitcase. "If your baggage is delayed or unaccounted for," says Trippler, "you're entitled to immediate reimbursement for replacement clothing," a useful fact to remember should you and your luggage end up at different airports.
Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.