How to Reduce the Risk of Losing Your Luggage — and What to Do If It Happens

Jun 9, 2019

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If you fly often and check a bag in, chances are that you have probably had a piece of baggage delayed or your case may have even been one of the 25 million bags a year that are misplaced by airlines. There’s nothing worse than starting your holiday or work trip with nothing but the clothes you’re standing up in

The good news is that Sita, the leading provider of operational and managerial services in the aviation industry, recently reported that the number of mishandled bags has dropped from 46.9 million in 2009 to 24.8 in 2018. You can thank technology for that, as airlines and airports alike are continuously trying technological advances in an attempt to reduce the number of passengers affected by mishandled or lost bags.

So, what can you do to reduce the risk of your bags being misplaced? If you want to take matters into your own hands, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the chances of you being one of the latest baggage statistics:

  • Pack Light — If you can, pack using only a cabin-sized suitcase. Most airlines allow for a small carry-on suitcase and a personal item like a handbag, so if you’re clever with your packing, you can cut the risk completely by not checking in a bag at all.
  • Suitcase Sharing — If you’re traveling with your family or even a group of friends, try mixing up your possessions. Then, if one case goes missing, everyone goes without a few items rather than one person being left with nothing,
  • A high proportion of suitcase mishaps happen during layovers at airports between flights. Though it’s not always possible due to route networks and costs, avoiding flights with one or more connections can cut the risk of being separated from your possessions.

Many airlines are investing in suitcase-tracking technology, which is either built into the airline’s app, or featured as a separate app to download. Be sure to check if your airline has one before you take your next flight. Of course, this doesn’t decrease the risk of having your baggage lost, but passengers can find some comfort in being able to see when their baggage has made it onto the plane and off again at the other end.

Some airlines are going even further — American carrier Delta Air Lines is experimenting with machine learning to try and identify weak links in the baggage chain like particular routes, times of day or types of baggage, which are associated with a higher number of issues. Plans can then be put in place to iron out the identified weak spots and hopefully reduce problems for passengers.

Am I Protected?

Good question. If you get to your destination airport and your bag doesn’t, the first thing you should do is head to the baggage desk for your airline, where a customer service representative should be available to advise you of what compensation your airline offers. These desks are usually located in the baggage reclaim hall. Depending on the airline’s presence in the airport, there might not be a desk, so in this case, call customer services straight away.

Credit cards are also a great way of making sure that you’re not left out of pocket when your baggage goes missing and you arrive on holiday empty handed. If it’s something that it is important to you, make sure you read your credit card’s insurance policy, as they can typically offer some insurance in covering you at least for the essentials.

Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive way to ensure your bags don’t get lost. However, there are some ways you can help to protect yourself from the possibility. In the end, tracking your bags when possible and taking some additional steps can help you to get to your final destination with belongings in hand.

Featured image by Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

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