A month ago I landed at Adelaide, on a direct flight from Canberra, and my bags had gone somewhere else. Virgin Blue gave me a call that evening and I had my bags by mid-morning.
Ten days ago my daughter landed at Adelaide, on a direct flight from Canberra, and her bags had gone somewhere else. Qantas gave us a reference number and a phone number to call in the morning.
That reference number calls up a record on a "Global Tracker" web site. It is a database record containing a description of the bag, the flight, and where to deliver the bag when it is found.
Now the bad news, when you call the phone number, Qantas simply read that screen back to you and tell you to keep waiting. You can ring the Baggage Services at the various airports directly, but they don't answer the phone in Sydney or Canberra and don't return answering machine messages in Adelaide. I went to the Adelaide airport and chatted to the baggage people, who searched for the bag. I asked if the same could be done in Canberra and Sydney, but they had the same contact numbers I had and couldn't get anyone to answer either.
Unless there is a miracle my daughter will never see that bag again. Qantas do offer some money after three weeks. But of course that's not much use in replacing the Learner Driver's Log Book (it turns out that if you lose this, in whatever way, you simply have to start over) or her own-made dresses.
The lesson would seem to be twofold. Firstly, don't trust the airline with your luggage. Hard advice considering the increasing restrictions on airline cabin baggage.
Secondly, mark you bag so obviously even Blind Freddy can spot it a mile away. If you describe your bag as "purple with diagnal yellow stripe" then it's not going to end up ignored in some corner like my daughter's brown suitcase.
And do put your name and mobile number on the luggage tag. Otherwise the airline just tries to match the description of the bag on the database with the description of found bags. That's bad news, since if the finder of the bag misdescribes it (maybe they don't notice the zipper) then it will never match the database entry for the lost bag.