If you've ever been that lone loser staring at the stomach-twisting, empty airport luggage carousel; waiting, hoping, watching as all your fellow passengers skip off with their bags in tow, you'll probably be quite familiar with that inevitable sinking feeling that follows.Losing luggage is probably one of the worst nightmares any traveller - noob or experienced - could ever face. Not only are you left bare of precious belongings, but also find yourself at the mercy of airline customer service and often lengthy claim processes.In short, missing baggage can cause a whole lot of unpleasant delays that, in turn, could possibly ruin a holiday, not to mention an important business trip.So, if you're a fan of the ‘prevention is better than cure' mantra, you could either abide by a strict principle of never checking luggage in (a close to impossible feat for most packers), or make sure your bags are as safe as possible by following these guidelines.However, sometimes ‘prevention' is impossible and the only option available to you is ‘cure.'Delayed luggageObviously the first thought that pops up when your luggage doesn't appear on the conveyer belt is that it's gotten lost... poof! Gone! Just like that.However, more often than not, there is the very real possibility that it has just been delayed for some reason. So keep calm, head to the lost property section of your airline and find out what's up.If they're fast and efficient they will be able to track your luggage. If it is only delayed then they should be able to give you its estimated time of arrival. In most cases the airline will offer to get the bag to your hotel/place of residence as soon as possible and free of charge. However, just make 100% sure of this, so you aren't saddled with a nasty delivery charge.If you suspect they may charge you for delivery, arrange to pick it up from the airport yourself instead.Before leaving the airport, make sure you know how to check on your bag's status!DamagedMost airlines are quite specific about what counts as 'damaged luggage.' In most cases they specify something along the following lines: [airline] will not accept responsibility or pay compensation for damage caused to items protruding from, or attached to bags, or for damage caused as a result of badly packed bags.So, if a wheel is missing or a zip torn, there really is very little chance of claiming for damages. However, if there is serious and obvious damage, or signs of tampering report it to the airline immediately for credibility purposes. Customer services would most likely want to inspect the bag and would be able to give you an indication of how viable your chances of a claim are. Once you've done this and have your baggage repaired, keep all receipts to attach to your claim form. LostIf your 'delayed' luggage cannot be traced by the airline and is not returned to you in the amount of time specified by the airline, it's safe to assume that it is indeed... well... lost. In this case, make sure you fill out the correct form, which my differ from any other forms you filled in for the delayed luggage, and file a claim as soon as possible. Rules and regulations regarding these claims and what you can expect compensation-wise differ from airline to airline, so take a look at these baggage claim guidelines for South Africa's main airlines.SAAWindow period for claimDamaged and lost luggage should be reported to South African Airways' Lost Property as soon as possible, preferably while still at the airport, or within seven days of arrival. You will have to fill out a claim form on which you specify your luggage and whether it was lost, damaged or pilfered.Furthermore you would have to provide a purchase price for each item and which currency was used to buy it.Compensation:If SAA is responsible for the loss or damage of your luggage, you can expect compensation of about R230 per kilogram for checked luggage and R4 050 per person for hand luggage.Waiting period:It could take up to 21 days for claims to be finalised. Not liable for:Of course airlines have to cover their backs when it comes to certain items, so make sure you know what their claim limits are.SAA specifies the following in their Conditions of Carriage: South African Airways does not take responsibility for the loss of valuable items in checked luggage including money, passports or visas, computer equipment, electronic devices, cell phones, fragile items, business documents and jewellery.KululaWindow period for claimFor any claims regarding damage to checked baggage you will have to notify Kulula's Lost Property department as soon as you discover the damage, and at the latest within seven days of receipt of the baggage.In the case of delayed or lost luggage, you should actually file the claim while still at the airport, but have a 21-day grace period if this is not possible.CompensationIf Kulula admits responsibility for the loss or damage of your luggage, you can expect compensation of about R200 per kilogram for checked luggage, and R4050 per person for unchecked luggage.Waiting periodIf luggage is merely delayed, it should arrive at the airport with the very next Kulula flight from your departure destination. However, if the luggage cannot be traced, processing a claim could take up to 7 days.Not liable for:Kulula's contract of carriage states that they will not be liable for the following: fragile or perishable items, items having a special value, such as money, jewellery, precious metals, computers, cellular phones, personal electronic devices, negotiable papers, securities, or other valuables, business documents, passports and other identification documents, or samples, whether or not such baggage was handed over to a member of our staff or to our agents.1TimeWindow period for claimLost or delayed baggage must be reported immediately on arrival at the destination airport. Any claim for missing items or damaged baggage must be submitted to the airline within 24 hours of the arrival of your flight.Compensation1Time offers compensation of about R200 per kilogram of lost checked-in baggage, but does not offer any compensation for delayed baggage.Waiting period1time reserves the right to trace any missing baggage for14 days from the reported loss.Not liable forValuable items such as, but not limited to: cellular phones, jewellery, laptops or other computer equipment, electronic items, cash, credit cards, documents, spectacles, sun glasses, and fragile or perishable items packed in baggage.BAWindow period for claimComplaints about damage to checked baggage must be made in writing within seven days of receiving the baggage.Complaints about delay to checked baggage must be made in writing within 21 days of the baggage being made available to you.CompensationOn local flights, if British Airways admits responsibility for the loss or damage of your luggage, you can expect compensation of about R200 per kilogram for checked luggage, and R4050 per person for unchecked luggage.On international flights you could expect compensation of about R13, 800 (SDR 1131) for checked luggage in the event of damage or delay.Waiting periodNot liable for:Fragile or perishable items, items with a special value, such as money, jewellery, precious metals, computers, personal electronic devices, share certificates, bonds and other valuable documents, business documents, or passports and other identification documents.MangoWindow period for claimLost or delayed Baggage must be reported immediately on arrival. In cases where Baggage has been delayed, any damage or losses have to be reported within 24 hours of receipt of the Baggage by the owner.CompensationGuests will be compensated for lost Baggage to a maximum of R140.00 per kilogram of Checked Baggage up to a maximum of R2500.00 per claim.Waiting periodNot liable forThe loss of valuable items in checked luggage including money, passports or visas, computer equipment, electronic devices, cell phones, fragile items, business documents and jewellery.