Not long ago, an airline lost my checked bag for five days. There’s no point in naming and shaming the airline, because what I’m about to tell you could apply to, or happen on, any airline.

I will say that it was a non-stop flight and I checked in for the flight three hours before departure, so there was really no excuse for the airline to mishandle it. The check-in agent was harried and even forgot to charge the standard $25 checked bag fee, and the loss occurred on a flight back home, which is less annoying than had it been lost away from home.

Even so, the bag contained essential items, or at least I consider them essential, such as most of my unmentionables, toiletries and so on. 

I’ve written before about U.S. Department of Transportation edicts instructing airlines that a delayed bag, in some cases, should be treated exactly like a lost bag. Especially if you’re starting your outbound trip and your bag doesn’t arrive, you might need to replace items, even if the bag is only lost for a few hours. Perhaps you’re going to a colder climate and your puffer jacket was in the bag; or you’re going to a meeting where dressier clothes are called for, but those clothes are in a bag going round and round on a luggage carousel in Cairo.

Airlines hate paying to replace essential items, and in past years they’d dole out $25 or $50 for toothpaste and a change of underwear. But the DOT has ruled that this is insufficient and fined airlines for thinking otherwise. In fact, theoretically, someone whose bag is delayed could claim up to the full compensation limit applicable to a lost bag (currently $3,500 for domestic U.S. travel) if the passenger can prove that the items were indeed “essential.”

The first thing I did upon realizing my bag wasn’t showing up anytime soon was to fill out a lost bag claim with the airline. Next, I alerted my credit card company that the bag was delayed. Since I had booked the trip with my Chase card I knew that it would cover me for up to $100 a day for five days if I needed to replace things, in the event that the airline denied my…