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Are You Helping Your Airline Lose Your Luggage?

An unfortunate fact of flying is that some airlines lose your luggage more often than others. Fly, say, Air Canada and you’re sure to get at least a few warnings not to be too attached to the idea of finding your luggage on the carousel after you deplane. And, if you’re a lost-luggage phobe who looks at numbers, American Airlines is sure to raise your blood pressure. They have worst track record of the major U.S. carriers and lose 5.9 bags out of every 1,000 on average. But even if you fly Delta Airlines which has the best numbers–they only misplace 1.55 bags per 1,000 passengers on average–but there’s no guarantee that you won’t be the unlucky 1.55th person.

But, getting your luggage to your destination isn’t completely dependent on statistics and luck. There’s one thing you can do to help make sure that your luggage reaches its destination and a few things you can do if it still doesn’t.

The Frequent Flier’s Foible

A well-traveled suitcase often keeps its last trip’s tags on it up until the day it goes on its next one. But, it shouldn’t. While it doesn’t happen terribly often, old tags can take your bags to your old destination when baggage handlers accidentally scan the old ones instead of the new ones.

While a gate agent should tell you to take off the old tags before they put the new ones on, they don’t always do that. One way to save yourself the headache of a misrouted bag is to take them off yourself (ideally as soon as you land).

What to Do

Most well-traveled fliers will tell you that you should always assume that an airline is going to lose your luggage, no matter who you fly or how tag-free you keep your luggage. So while you can’t always avoid checking a bag, you can prepare to be without it. Here’s how:

  • Always keep your can’t-lose items–medication, etc–in your carry on. And it doesn’t hurt to keep a fresh change of clothes (or at least a few unmentionables) with you as well.
  • Take a photo of your bag. A photograph of the exterior of your carry-on will help you help airport staff identify it for you. A photograph of its contents can come in handy for reimbursement purposes if the items inside are permanently misplaced.
  • Consider a luggage tracker. While it won’t prevent your luggage from becoming misplaced, it well let you know where it is and keep you from waiting at the carousel for a bag that’s never coming.
  • Don’t check a bag at all. If you can make it through your journey with just a carry-on, this is the safest way to go.



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