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How I Lost ~$800 Worth of Personal Items to the Airport

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How I Lost ~$800 Worth of Personal Items to the Airport

Million Mile SecretsHow I Lost ~$800 Worth of Personal Items to the AirportMillion Mile Secrets Team

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I’m inspired when I hear other people share stories of their adventures with miles & points.  So here’s the next installment of our weekly series where the Million Mile Secrets team shares their successes (and failures) with you!

Joseph:   It’s easy for those of us in the miles & points community to develop an overconfidence when it comes to travel.

We know all the airport codes by heart.  We pass the security checkpoint and head directly to the best lounge in the terminal.  And we scoff as we saunter past the flock of sheep in the immigration line, while scanning our fingerprints at the Global Entry kiosk.

With all the tricks we learn through this hobby, it’s difficult not to feel arrogant sometimes!  Fortunately, I still fail hard and often while traveling.  It snaps me back to humility.

Last fall during a trip to Peru, I managed to lose my luggage (and my precious Peruvian souvenirs!) to Lima airport’s luggage storage service.

Losing Bags To An Airport Luggage Check Service
Machu Picchu Is an Obligatory Bucket List Item. Gazing Serenely at the Ancient Ruins, I’m Glad I Had No Idea of the Anger I’d Experience the Next Day

Someone needs to tell me if I’m the idiot, or if the Lima airport owes me an apology.

Losing Luggage in Lima

My friends and I had just finished the 4-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and returned to Lima to catch our flights back to the US.  We arrived ~10 hours before my early morning flight, so I had the entire night to kill in Lima.  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.

I had read about 2 highly rated Priority Pass lounges in the Lima airport; Sumaq VIP and VIP Club.  VIP Club was said to be ideal for sleeping.  So I decided to check my luggage super early, pass through security, and sleep at the lounge.

Losing Bags To An Airport Luggage Check Service
Both the Sumaq VIP and VIP Club in the Lima Airport Are Really Comfy Lounges!

I wheeled my luggage to the American Airlines desk and presented my bag to the agent.  But she told me she couldn’t check my bag until 2 hours before my flight!  I’d have to spend the night on the cold tile of the riotous arrivals hall, leaning against my checked bag for 8 hours.

This was not an option.  So I located the airport baggage check station, “Left Luggage,“and dropped my bag off.  I told the clerk I’d be back in ~8 hours to get my stuff.

I passed through security and found a place to sleep in the VIP Club lounge.  It had a small courtyard with tons of AMAZING recliners made of soft leather that retains body heat.

Losing Bags To An Airport Luggage Check Service
Every Chair Was Filled With a Sleeping Body When I Woke Up Around 4am

When it was time to check my bags, I headed toward what I thought was the terminal exit.  But I couldn’t find it anywhere!  I roamed around for 20 minutes looking for some way out, thinking I was missing something simple, but there was nowhere to go.

I returned to the immigration checkpoint and told an officer that I needed to leave to get my bag.  She told me she’d have to see if it was possible, and took me to find another officer.

The other officer told me I’d have to pay $30 to exit security and return to the arrivals hall.  That really irritated me, but I estimated my luggage and its contents were worth ~$800.  And lots more once factoring in sentimentality.

I agreed to the fee, and he left to find someone else.  He returned, and informed me that I could only leave if I had a note from my airline.  Livid, I walked back into the terminal and wandered for an hour, looking for ANY American Airlines representative.

Just 50 minutes before departure, a notably ungracious American Airlines employee appeared behind the gate desk.  I pleaded for a note to leave the terminal, and he snarkily advised me that if I were to leave security now, there would be no way I’d make my flight.  It was either my bag or the flight.

I told him to give me a freaking note anyway.  He agreed, and I’m still waiting for it to this day.

Losing Bags To An Airport Luggage Check Service
I Booked a Business Class Flight from Lima to Miami for 30,000 American Airlines Miles One-Way. Angled Lie-Flat Seats, a Galaxy Tab for the Entertainment, and Seriously Great Food

If I didn’t have time-sensitive obligations back home, I’d have changed my flight to a later date, exited the airport, and flown home with my luggage the next day.  American Airlines allows you to change your award flight dates, flight times, and class of service for just $75 (or free, if the change results in a departure date 21+ days in the future).  You can also change your origin and destination for $150.

I’ve exited international terminals plenty of times, I’m sure of it.  And I’ve never had a problem!  Just when I think I’ve perfected my international travel skills, I make a costly mistake that reminds me how much I have to learn.

Left Luggage Lima Airport, if you’re reading this, the brown khakis haven’t been washed, so they might be prone to shrinkage.  And if the buttons on the GoPro stop responding, simply remove and reinsert the battery, and it will be good as new!

Bottom Line

Team member Joseph was forced to leave his luggage in the Lima airport after failing to understand the airport rules.  He lost ~$800 worth of clothes, electronics, souvenirs, and a really nice Samsonite roller!

No matter how much you think you know, there’s always something that can go awry.  Count it as experience, and maybe a funny story.  And travel smarter the next time!

Do you have any heartbreaking lost luggage stories?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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The main problem is not verifying those details in advance. I’m not sure which international airports, if any, would allow you to go back without major hassle after you exit passport control. In hindsight, it would obviously be a lot cheaper to just go to a hotel for the night. This is not a place where lodging near the airport costs an arm and a leg. Plenty of really inexpensive places to stay. Maybe the takeaway is not to get entirely hung up on the miles, points, lounges track and keep aware of alternatives.

Joseph Hostetler

I think it’s so funny that I’ve never encountered this problem before (though not $800 worth of funny), as it seems to be fairly common knowledge.
Staying at the airport wasn’t so much about saving money as it was convenience. Though obviously it became an ordeal. You make a good point though; it’s easy to go broke trying to save money.


Yes, most places that have exit immigration, like Peru, you will not get back out past immigration without a lot of grief. Even Canada, after you have passed through US preclearance, you need to have an RCMP escort to go back into Canada if you need to exit the transborder terminal (for example, if your flight is cancelled). This is true even if you are a citizen of the country you are going back into. I have been in this situation leaving Canada (where I am a citizen), Hong Kong and China.
Don’t know that there is a lot to learn from this other than to not leave a country until you are sure that you are done with it!
No, you are not an idiot, but no, Lima airport does not owe you an apology.


Oh, and I am going to be flying through Lima airport on April 3, let me know if you want me to pick you up anything!

Joseph Hostetler

Haha!! That’s alright, I appreciate the offer but I’m certain my bag is long gone. I’ve had multiple fruitless attempts at contacting the service.
That’s completely right, exit immigration is what I did NOT account for. I honestly did not digest the implications of going through immigration. I just figured exiting would be painless, like it was when visiting airports like Incheon and Istanbul.
This is really good info, thanks for commenting.

What is the prevention tip? Could he have taken the bag into the lounge? if not, what prevented him? other than just lugging a bag?

Joseph Hostetler

I couldn’t bring my large checked bag through security, unfortunately :/ The other readers are correct, it was NOT a good idea to try and leave an airport after passing through exit control. I am the weakest link.