Why Airline Luggage Gets Lost

Expected read time: 5 min

Lost luggage is one of those things we all dread. Luckily, airline luggage is almost never lost, in most cases, it’s just delayed.

In fact, more than 85% of all airline baggage is just delayed due to late check-in, short times between connecting flights, or unexpected weather conditions.

Only 3% of luggage is actually lost or stolen.

Chances are that you will get your lost luggage back before the end of your trip.

To help you avoid a stressful ‘lost luggage’ situation, here are the top 4 reasons why luggage gets lost and what you can do to prevent it.

You’re late to check-in on your flight


If you have to hurry up to catch the check-in times, your luggage might not have enough time to go through the baggage handling system and get on your plane on time.

Late for checkin ketut subiyanto Late for checkin ketut subiyanto


Do your best to be at the airport at least an hour early. And if that’s not possible, make sure to add a pair of underwear and your basic necessities (toiletries and medicine) to your carry-on, just in case your luggage gets delayed.

Connecting flights with little time in-between


This is a common problem for many travelers since direct flights usually cost an arm and a leg. While you can pick up your pace to catch a connecting flight, your luggage has to go through established processes that take the time they take, no matter how little of it is available between your flights.

Connecting flights anna shvets Connecting flights anna shvets


To avoid unnecessary luggage delays, try to pick connecting flights with at least 1 hour in-between.

If you can’t, just pack a change of underwear and your basic toiletries in the carry-on just in case. Luggage delays can only be a minor inconvenience since your luggage usually follows you to your destination on the next available flight.

Another passenger took your luggage by mistake


Everybody and their uncle owned a black mid-sized suitcase at some point in their life. Suitcases are traditionally black, dark blue, or grey, since these colors hide the wear and tear of travel best and their shape is usually similar too.

This is great for airlines who can stack the suitcases in the plane but not so great for the passengers trying to find their luggage in a sea of similar-looking bags.

Sometimes people pick up a piece of luggage at baggage claim, only to find out later that it’s not their bag they took.

Lost airline luggage markus winkler Lost airline luggage markus winkler


Make your bag stand out. You don’t need to buy a new suitcase in vivid colors, it’s pretty easy and fairly cheap to make your existing luggage stand out. Attach ribbons, put on stickers, or get a colorful protective cover. Making it stand out will also help if your bag ever actually gets lost in transit.

If you’d prefer to keep your luggage looking low profile, put extra care into displaying some contact information in a visible spot and in clear print.

Airline baggage tag misprint or damage


The tags the airlines use are pretty sturdy, but even they can sometimes tear or fall off. Or they can simply be misprinted at the check-in process. If that happens your bag can get stuck at the airport or worse, get sent to the wrong destination.

Airline baggage tag problems Airline baggage tag problems


Remove old tags and stickers from previous trips from your luggage. Make sure your suitcase is not packed to the brim, so it can travel through the baggage handling system without a problem.

2 simple solutions that will get you through a lost luggage situation

Make your contact information easily visible.

Make sure your contact information is displayed on the outside and inside your suitcase.

On the outside, add a sturdy tag with some clearly written contact details. Inside your luggage place a folder with the same information (and your travel plans, if you feel comfortable doing that), just in case the outside tag is damaged or removed.

Lost airport luggage nappy Lost airport luggage nappy

Pack your essentials in your carry-on.

Add a clean pair of underwear, a backup t-shirt, and the essential toiletries to your carry-on, in case your luggage does get delayed or lost. That will get you through the first 24 hours, so you can focus on getting your missing luggage back as soon as possible.

In about 10% of lost luggage cases, the luggage does get damaged or something gets stolen.

In these cases, airlines do need some extra help returning your luggage back to you. Displaying your contact information outside and inside and making your luggage stand out somehow will help them identify the owner more easily and have your luggage on its way back to you as soon as possible.

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