10 Ways to Make Sure Your Bags Don’t Get Lost When You Fly

Every flier wants their checked luggage to arrive at their destination with them at the end of a flight. But not every flier takes these simple precautions.

As if air travel didn’t have enough pitfalls on its own, there’s also the frustrating and real possibility that an airline could lose your checked luggage. According to a study by SITA, an IT company that provides bag-tracking systems to airlines, 26 million suitcases were mishandled in 2022, meaning lost, delayed, damaged, or stolen.

And although airlines have implemented various systems to minimize such occurrences (such as digital bag tags and programming within their apps to allow travelers to track their luggage in real time), there are some proactive steps you can take as an air traveler to minimize delayed or misplaced baggage.

Read on for a few things travelers can do to help keep track of their bags—and to help airlines keep track of them, too.

1. Use a luggage tag. Every time.

Even if you plan to take your bag as a carry-on, use a luggage tag with your contact information on it (and make sure that tag is securely attached). You never know when you’re going to be forced to gate check. For that contact information, be sure to put your name, phone number, and email address, as those are likely the fastest ways to reach you. Avoid putting your home address, as it could pose a safety concern.

2. Put your contact information in the bag, too.

Place your phone number and address inside the bag as well (in highly visible places!) so that an airline can easily contact you. You might also consider putting your travel itinerary in the luggage—it could help airline staff route it to you faster.

3. Book a nonstop flight whenever possible.

There are fewer opportunities for foul-ups and mishandling between flights when there are fewer connections and layovers. This is especially true on international flights where bags need to clear customs.

4. Take old stickers off your luggage.

Airlines put barcode stickers on checked luggage so that they can scan them and keep track of bags. This is helpful if you lose a suitcase, but it could work against you if the airline staff can’t tell which sticker is from which trip. So remove old bag tag stickers from your luggage before you check it. Leaving them on could cause confusion and mean your bag is misrouted.

5. Add an Apple AirTag to each bag you want to track.

The FAA allows travelers to put AirTags in their bags, but note that not every brand of tracker will meet the safety requirements. “Luggage tracking devices powered by lithium metal cells that have 0.3 grams or less of lithium can be used on checked baggage,” the FAA said in a statement shared with AFAR. “Apple AirTags meet this threshold; other luggage tracking devices may not.” When you file your missing bag report with the airline, you can share its current whereabouts, which should help them find it more quickly. You can also mark your AirTag as lost within the app. If an airline staffer finds it, they can scan it with their Apple device and your contact information will pop up.

6. Have a detailed description of your bag at the ready.

If it is misplaced, be ready to give the airline the exact manufacturer, size, color, and any distinguishing features of your bag so they have a good idea of what to look for. Saying “black” and “big enough to need to be checked” isn’t really helpful, as many bags fit that description. Also, keep an itemized list of what is in your suitcase—you can provide it to the airline and it may help people identify it faster, especially if your bag contains a unique item. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of the contents of your bag when you pack, which you can share with the airline. (It’ll come in handy if you do need to file a lost luggage claim; then the airline can’t dispute what the contents of the bag were.)

7. Arrive early for your flight and check in your luggage well in advance.

This can reduce the chances of a bag being mishandled because it gives airline staff ample time to properly tag and load your luggage onto the correct flight.

8. Be persistent (but polite!) with follow-ups.

If your bag is lost, staff will have to search for it manually. Getting someone to care could go a long way.

9. Make sure your bag is easily identifiable so that no one else accidentally grabs it off the carousel.

Try a bright ribbon or a luggage tag with a distinctive pattern or print, or use luggage in one of the great colors that our favorite stylish luggage brands sell. It’ll also make it less likely that someone will mistake your bag for their own. (Not sure what bag to get? We’ve got a guide to shopping for luggage.)

10. Ship your luggage instead of checking it.

If you have many bags to check, or something bulky like golf clubs, you may opt to skip the entire worry and cost of checking those in and use a shipping company. There are many companies that handle luggage shipping, and they usually offer such benefits as guaranteed arrival, door-to-door pickup and delivery, insurance, and 24-hour phone service so that you can always have someone to call if you’re worried about your bag.

Text taken from: https://www.afar.com

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