Anyone who has had their luggage delayed or lost whilst flying understands pain. Holidays, business trips or family reunions can be ruined.
Globally, every year, airlines lose over 1.2 million bags without trace (Source – SITA – makers of the largest baggage tracing system World Tracer). A further 23 million are misplaced and delayed temporarily. That means just under 1 in 100 travellers will be impacted by lost or delayed bags, and around 1 in 2000 (or more in some cases) will never get their possessions back.
This costs the travel industry and insurers billions of dollars a year in claims and processing costs. More importantly, is the passenger cost - you can never replace those special souvenirs, a favourite teddy bear, or a sweater knitted by your grandma….
Bags get lost for two simple reasons – they get stolen (a small percentage of the problem), or they can’t be identified if the airline baggage tag is lost or corrupted, and there is no back up ID on the bag.
Bags get delayed because of mistakes at the airport, especially when bags are transferred from one aircraft to another.
The airlines are working constantly to fix these issues, but accidents will still happen. However, here are 7 practical things you can do to minimise the risk you’ll lose your bag on your next trip:
Make sure you have Identification on your luggage - On the outside, and the inside. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper inside with a contact email or phone number, and your flight details. Avoid putting your name and address on the bag for security reasons….
Add an extra layer of security to back up the airline tag - There are various third party products, from trackers to Smart ID and luggage tags available to make your bag more secure and easier to find. These range in price from a few dollars to as much as $100. Just Google “Luggage Tracking” and you’ll see a good selection.
A few tips on choosing these are:
- Is the product linked to the airline baggage systems, like SITA World Tracer, so it works globally?
- Is it a physical item, like a tag or sticker? A travel insurance policy or online search service won’t help a baggage handler identify your bag.
- Is it using GSM, Bluetooth or RFID technology to allow tracking? Check that your airline will actually allow such items in your luggage (some batteries and inflight signals are banned).
- Will it work almost anywhere? Understand that some trackers may not work in the air, and may be weak or ineffective in enclosed spaces without wi-fi, like baggage handling areas. Batteries need re-charging.
At check in, make sure the airline issued bag tag is affixed well to the bag. In many cases, these airline tags come with 2 or 3 small bar codes, which are designed to be separated and stuck to different faces of your bag. This helps airport sensors scan the bag correctly. Make sure these small stickers are in place, not just the large one on the handle.
Make sure your bag looks unique and is therefore easier to find – a simple black suitcase will be much harder to identify if found than a black suitcase with a large coloured sticker or ribbon attached, or an ID tag attached.
Take photos of your bags and the contents before you send them on their journey. That helps identify them later. It can also help expedite the claims process if something goes wrong.
Make sure you allow plenty of time between flights if you are transferring at an intermediate airport.
Follow these simple steps and you’ll maximise your chances of seeing your bags at the other end of every journey.