You can always change hotels, go to a different beach, even change flights, but when your bag gets lost, all you can do is buy a toothbrush and a change of underwear and hope your luggage is found soon.
How likely is it for my luggage to get lost?
When you combine all airline traffic with the number of lost bags, there is less than 1% chance your luggage will get misplaced or lost.
You have a higher chance of losing your luggage on international flights, where your journey has more than 1 flight.
But even if you’re part of the unlucky 1%, you still shouldn’t worry, the chances of finding your lost luggage are still very high.
According to a research made by the Association of European Airlines around 85% of lost luggage is found and delivered within the first 36 hours.
Only 7% of all luggage that is reported as lost is never found or returned.
While you can’t help airline employees search for your bags, there are a few ways to prevent lost luggage or speed up the process of it being returned:
Remove old airline tags and stickers
This one’s easy. Your bags get scanned multiple times during your journey and you don’t want to confuse baggage scanners with outdated information from your previous flights.
Remove the tags from the handles and check the sides for those small barcode stickers too.
Pack essentials in your carry-on
This one’s not here to help you recover your lost luggage faster, it’s here to help you get through the first 48 hours if your check-in gets lost.
Anything you’ll need in the next 48 hours goes in your carry-on. Below we prepared a very basic list to start you off:
- Wallet and IDs
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Phone charger or a power bank
- A fresh t-shirt
- Pair of socks
- Change of underwear
Get a distinctive luggage tag
A flimsy piece of paper on a bit of string won’t do.
You know how your luggage is handled at the airport and how frequently bags fall off those trollies when they are wheeled to and from the airplane.
Get a sturdy, colourful luggage tag with a strap made from plastic or rubber and put in the contact information you’ll be able to check during your vacation too.
A bright tag with a distinctive design will also set your luggage apart from all the others on the baggage carousel. With a plane full of people, there’s a good chance another traveller might pick up your black suitcase, mistaking it for theirs.
Keep your info inside your luggage too!
Even the best luggage tag can get torn off during baggage handling, so put a piece of paper with your contact information in your luggage as well.
Place it on top of your belongings and include your travel itinerary as well. Airline employees sometimes open luggage they can’t identify, and a sheet with your travel plans will make it easier for them to return your luggage.
Get a smart luggage tag
Invest in a smart luggage tag. There are a few different luggage trackers available on the market and depending on your needs (and how deep your pockets are), you can either go with a GPS or a Bluetooth tracker for your luggage.
GPS trackers are more expensive, and they usually come with a monthly subscription plan, but you will be able to track your luggage in real-time anywhere and anytime.
In comparison, Bluetooth trackers are fairly cheap and don’t have any additional monthly costs, but they are also limited in range, so you will only be able to track your luggage when it is nearby (up to 200 ft / 60 m).
Bluetooth luggage tags are a great way to check that your luggage is on the plane before takeoff. You can either check the accompanying app if the tracker is connected or set up in-range notifications on your phone.
Remove loose straps from your bags
Remove any straps, loops and hooks. The only bits hanging out should be the ones you need to carry your luggage. This will prevent your bag from getting hooked on anything during its transit through the airport baggage handling system.
Take a photo of your luggage
It won’t stop your luggage from getting lost, but it will make it easier to identify if it does.
Make sure to highlight any distinctive features on your suitcase in the photo, so that the lost & found office can identify it more easily. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of your baggage-claim ticket in case you misplace or lose it.
Check in early
If you’re late to the airport, the airline will have to hurry when processing your luggage.
Mistakes can happen and they could accidentally send your luggage to the wrong location or there simply might not be enough time left to get your luggage onboard.
What do I do if my luggage gets lost?
If your luggage isn’t on the baggage carousel when you land, go to your airline’s counter immediately and report your luggage lost. Have your baggage-claim ticket (or a photo of it) ready to help speed up the process. The employee there should be able to start the search or at least point you in the right direction.