Airlines have existed for more than 100 years, but they still haven't figured out how to reliably deliver their passengers' luggage to its destination. Here's how you can make sure the job gets done.
I consider myself lucky any time I find my checked baggage in one piece on the carousel at my destination. At the same time, I know that luck is not the only force that will reunite you with your luggage. In the past, I have shared with you 6 Ways to Keep Airlines from Losing Your Bags – and 4 Tips If It Happens Anyway. As valuable as those tips are, I’m still learning new ways your luggage can get lost, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place – as some recent trips have taught me…
1. Verify your bag tag
We all know what happens when you check a bag: You show your itinerary to the ticketing agent or the sky cap, and he or she places a bar-coded tag on your luggage, while simultaneously hoisting it onto the conveyor belt.
But hold on. How do you know your bag is actually checked to its final destination?
Unless you verify it yourself, you don’t.
For example, on a recent trip to Africa, a Delta agent tagged my father’s bag just to our connecting point in London, rather than to our final destination in Nairobi, Kenya. As a result, it took several days for his bag to catch up with him. Had he known to double-check the tag as soon as it was placed on his bag, he could have caught the error and prevented it.
Another good habit is to remove your bag’s tag at your destination to eliminate any possibility that on your return trip, baggage handlers will see it, conclude it is still valid, and fail to send your luggage home with you.
2. Streamline your luggage
Not only have I had bags lost and delayed myself, I’ve actually taken a behind-the-scenes tour through the underbelly of the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International. Down there, bags fall off carts, bins, and conveyor belts with alarming frequency.
In fact, my tour guide stopped frequently to pick up stray straps, handles, and luggage tags that had fallen or had been ripped off people’s luggage and found their way onto the tarmac. After that experience, I made a note to always remove any loose items from the outside of my bag before checking it in. Doing so helps avoid having my bag damaged while it gets hung up on the bag-handling machinery.
3. Hang onto your luggage claim tags
After checking your bag, you’re always given a luggage claim tag. For years, I hadn’t given these items much thought, and I regularly misplaced them. That practice came to an end when I flew to a small island for my honeymoon – and my bag did not.
Few people were willing to assist me without showing them my luggage claim tag. Seeing the barcode, many people simply conclude that the computer has all the information from your bag tag. But too often, airlines treat claim tags almost like retailers who require a receipt before they’ll consider a return. When push comes to shove, your claim tag will help the airline find your lost bag, and it may even be the only proof you have that you ever checked one in the first place.
By taking some simple precautions with their checked bags, travelers can tilt the odds in their favor of having a successful reunion with their possessions.