How to avoid having your luggage lost by airlines

When we travel by air, especially to go on vacation or on the occasion of an international business trip, we often need to bring several pieces of luggage with us, meaning that some of our bags or suitcases will be transported as checked baggage in the hold of the aircraft. Looking at today’s technologically advanced systems that are used to handle airport operations, we assume that an airline has no reason to misplace our belongings, but statistics show that it does happen more frequently than we would wish. While common sense tells us to pack the essentials we won’t be able to do without during our trip in our carry-on, we have compiled the best tips and recommendations to ensure you won’t need to deal with lost luggage at all on your upcoming travels.

Follow the steps below every time you catch a flight and airlines will never lose your luggage:

-Remove all previous flight tags that may still be attached to the bags you will check. Absent-minded and nostalgic travellers have a tendency to keep old airline tags fixed to their suitcases, oftentimes just to boast their alleged frequent flyer status, yet this might lead to an unwanted outcome. For instance, if you are about to catch your flight back home but the tag corresponding to your outbound flight is still attached to your luggage and the check-in agent does not notice it, chances are that the wrong bar code will be scanned by the system. As a result, it will be understood that your bag must stay in that particular airport, be sent to a different destination or simply put aside since the information cannot be processed.

-Examine your baggage and detect any protruding handles or straps that might get caught in the moving belts or machinery at the airport; these should ideally be detached or removed to avoid one of the main causes of lost luggage without the airline even knowing or being able to track. The worst case scenario could be that neither the luggage tag nor your bag can be identified anymore.

-Be at the check-in counter at least one hour and half before departure time for domestic flights and two hours before departing for international flights. Or even better than that: find out when the check-in desks for your flight will open and try to be the first in line. Those who check in early rarely have their bags lost by the airline, because it is in the rush hour and last-minute handling when ticketing agents are more prone to make mistakes and send the bags to the wrong place.

-Before your bags go away on the belt at the check-in desk, quickly double check the info on the tag against that on the receipt the agent has given you and confirm it is correct (both must coincide and indicate your actual destination). Few people do this, but we do recommend you politely ask the airline agent to give you a minute for it, as most human mistakes originate in this step of the process.

-If you will be making a connection, layover or stopover in one or more airports before reaching your final destination, confirm with your carrier and its partners whether you must collect your luggage or not at each stage of your trip. In most cases, if you have purchased all the legs as a single ticket with connecting flights, it is highly likely that you won’t need to worry about claiming baggage until you arrive; however, when landing in small airports or flying with airlines that do not have a codeshare agreement, you will be in charge of collecting your baggage and re-check it prior to departing on your next flight.

-Nowadays, too many people rely on the classic plain grey or blue trolley, and differences in design from one manufacturing brand to another are barely noticeable, so make your checked bags stand out by means of adding stickers, your engraved initials or a colourful ribbon. Unless you are a business traveller whose job requires uniform formality in your dress code and complements, choose distinctive carry-ons and suitcases with striking designs and colours. This way, you will help the airline to identify them easily as well as prevent them from being taken by mistake by jet-lagged and sleepy passengers.

-Upon landing, check the baggage carousel for your flight several times as you approach the claim area for a simple reason: as is the case with boarding gates, the assigned baggage carousel may be changed after the airline staff has announced it over the speakers. Also, do not stop along the way to have a cup of coffee or buy gifts, it is preferable to have to wait for the bags to come out than arrive late and discover somebody else has left with your bags.

-Use approved TSA locks or an equivalent and not just for safety and privacy reasons. In the unlikely event of the presence of thieves at the baggage claim hall, a security lock that looks like it is hard to crack open will dissuade robbers who will turn to easier targets.

Have you got everything sorted out for your trip? If you need to find a place to stay in your next destination, learn how to search for and book accommodation online.

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