It’s 2013: we can carry hundreds of books on a pocket-sized device, video chat anywhere in the world and order nearly anything to be delivered to our door. So why do we still use paper luggage tags and rely on outmoded technology to track our missing bags? British Airways has teamed up with Designworks to test an electronic luggage tag this month that could eliminate disposable paper tags and allow smartphone users to track their bags. The reusable bag tag would automatically update after check-in with your flight information, saving time to print and attach new tags with every flight. Now if only they could prevent bags from being lost at London’s infamous black hole Heathrow Airport.
Just like death and taxes, another fact of life is that when you travel with checked bags, the airline will lose them sooner or later. Now, before you panic and picture yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere without your bags, you’ll be happy to know that the airlines manage to return almost all lost bags – but it does pay to know what to do when disaster strikes.
So, you are at the airport, watching bags come down the carousel, and an hour later, you come to realization that no more bags are coming, and that your bags may be missing. Don’t panic just yet – the first thing you’ll want to do is check the oversized or overflow luggage location. This is where larger bags are delivered, along with bags that may have shown up early (it does happen). Also, if a bag arrived damaged, they’ll place them here.
If they are not here, the next step is to trace your bag. This is where the baggage tag receipt on your ticket matters – this receipt contains the tracking number required to locate the bag. Don’t worry too much if you lost it, the number is also attached to your ticket number in the computer systems, but the tag is required to actually prove you handed the airline your bag.
At most airports, you’ll need to locate the luggage desk and patiently wait in line. At some major airports, you can also check your baggage location on self service terminals. As soon as you land, the clock starts ticking – almost every airline gives you a mere four hours to file a missing bag claim and get a search started.
Self service baggage kiosks work very much like the check-in terminals at the departure lounge. Once you feed the terminal the baggage locator number or itinerary number, it’ll tell you where your bags are.
Where could your bag be?
Once you start tracking your luggage, the results could be:
- Bags delayed – on next flight to the destination
- Bags misrouted – will need to be sent back to the correct destination
- Bags not found
Getting your bags back
In most cases, your bags will be found in the system, and you’ll know where they are. Usually by the time you land at the airport, the airline already knows they screwed up, and they may even have them on their next flight.
In the case of a misrouted bag, your airport baggage desk will put in a request for the bag to be sent to the right airport – but like with delayed bags, once your tag is scanned, the airline may already know they messed things up. If the bags were sent to an international destination with limited flights, it could take a couple of days to get them back on a plane.
If your bags are not found during a trace, it usually means the bag lost its paper tag. In most cases, the baggage handlers will simply find one of the smaller tags (now you know why the agents stick those all over your bag) and send it on its way.
In the worst case, the bag will end up in a stack of other bags with no identifiers. This is where it becomes very important for you to accurately describe your bag because someone is going to have to manually search for it based on looks.
More importantly, this is where luggage tags with your name will help. Simply telling the airline that your bag was black with wheels won’t help them at all. Always attach name tags on the outside and labels with your name on the inside.
If you want to make life easier, consider these tips:
- Avoid boring black bags, or get black bags and make them stand out using tape or markers
- Always tag your bags with sturdy baggage name tags
- Place name stickers inside your bags
- Photograph your bags using your phone – this will make it easier to describe them to the baggage agent
Actually getting reunited with your bags
This is where things become tough – because in many cases, you’ll now need to leave the airport without your bags. Unless you know that your bags are already on a plane heading towards you, there is nothing else you can do but wait.
If you are on a trip away from home, ask the baggage clerk for a lost baggage kit – just don’t expect any luxuries here. You’ll usually get some very basic amenities and a t-shirt.
When you fill in the lost baggage form, be sure to tell the airline where to deliver your bag when it has been retrieved. Do not settle for them telling you to come and get it yourself. Make it clear you are on vacation and don’t want the extra expense of having to come back to the airport. Almost all airlines have regular courier services that will deliver lost bags.
You will need a physical address for this, and you will need to allow the airline at least 72 hours for the delivery. If you are on a trip that involves lots of different destinations, consider sending your bags to your next destination instead of risking sending them to a hotel you left two days ago.
The practical side of arriving with no luggage
You probably spent a day carefully packing your bag, and making sure you’d arrive with everything you could possibly need. And now you don’t have any of those things. Thankfully you are a smart traveler, so you did not pack any medication, important chargers or a laptop in your luggage. And since you are smart, you also have one spare set of clothes in your carry-on luggage. Sure, the thought of wearing the same underwear for two days may seem gross, but you’ll survive.
Thankfully, if you are without bags, the airline will reimburse you for expenses. This does not mean you can walk into the local department store and spend $1000 on a new suit – it merely means you can get some basics, and get out of your flying clothes. The airline will also cover basic toiletries and medical expenses.
The airline will not pay anything up front, and it could take several months to receive a check covering the costs, so always be sure you travel with enough money in the event something goes wrong. The last thing you want is to burn through all your vacation cash replacing lost clothes.
The most important thing to do is just relax – there is no denying that arriving without your bags is a major inconvenience, but do not let it spoil your vacation. The bags will probably turn up within a day and all will be well.
One word you must never forget when dealing with compensation: receipts. Keep every single receipt for every purchase you want to claim. Without a receipt, the airline will not compensate you.
Baggage gone for good – now what?
This is the nightmare scenario – the airline could lose your bags for good. In some cases this could be related to theft, in others it could be a lost luggage tag and no way to actually locate your bag. This is where it becomes OK to panic a little, just remember that panic won’t bring your bags back. If the airline has not returned your bags within 72 hours and has not been able to locate them, you can consider them gone.
Airlines are great at limiting their liability. This means they limit how much money they’ll pay you, and they’ll also limit the contents of your bag eligible for compensation. Excluded items include:
Money, jewelry, cameras, negotiable papers/securities, electronic/video/ photographic equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artifacts, works of art, silverware, irreplaceable books/publications/manuscripts/business documents, precious metals and other similar valuable and commercial effects.
Bottom line? Any of those items should be carried on board the plane.
As soon as you get back home, you should file a claim with the airline. Like any claim, the airline will do its best to make life tough, and will require large amounts of proof, so hang on to your ticket receipt, boarding passes, luggage claim tags and print our credit card receipts for ticket purchases.
If the airline does refuse to pay up, contact your credit card company and find out which of your items were possibly covered with credit card insurance. You’d be surprised how easy this process can be.
Travel insurance could be another way to claim the full value of your loss – but be sure to read all the fine print before you sign up for a policy, in many cases, insurance will exclude luggage and many items in your bags.
And if you’d like one final depressing piece of news – airlines will almost never refund your baggage fee. This means you pay them to do something, they fail, and they keep your money anyway. In those cases, you’ll also want to consider a credit card chargeback. Just be sure to document everything, as your credit card company will want proof that the bag was indeed delayed or lost.
Who to contact when your bags go missing?
Spirit Airlines (Spirit does not offer a dedicated lost luggage help page)
Last week, our very own Heather Poole was interviewed by the New York Times asking for her packing tips, and this week, we’ve got some tips from the team of executives behind popular luggage brand Briggs & Riley. There are some pretty handy tips in the list, and as always, it shows that everyone has their own method of packing.
What about you? Got any tips you’d like to share with us? Leave them in the comments section below! With enough tips, we may feature you in an upcoming article with reader submitted packing tips.Richard Krulik (CEO, Briggs & Riley)
Bans bulk and sticks with a central color scheme
Be careful not to over fold, it’s what bulks things up, taking up unnecessary space. I spread things out as widely as I can, laying my slacks on the bottom of the luggage with the “legs” hanging over the sides. I pack on top of the slacks and then fold the part that’s hanging outside back in – it makes a nice gentle fold instead of a hard crease in the legs. It saves space and prevents wrinkles at the same time. With sweaters, I take thin cashmere instead of cable knit. I’ll limit the variation of colors to bring only two pairs of black shoes, which I alternate wearing.
Carole Schnall (VP Administration, Briggs & Riley)
Her clothing arrives in perfect shape every time
My clothes always arrive in perfect shape and wrinkle free – I start by folding neatly like they do in a department store, and I put plastic in between each item. I use either dry cleaner plastic or polyethylene bags which you can buy at Home Depot or Wal-Mart. I use them over and over again. I roll my underwear into my shoes and take each shoe and put it into a supermarket plastic bag and tie them up to avoid dirt, which then get placed along the edges of my bag.
Jim Lahren (VP Marketing, Briggs and Riley)
High tech app junkie
Before I pack, I check the weather for where I am going. In fact, there are many great travel apps that I use for weather forecasts and to consolidate my travel itineraries. Think about what you are going to need on that business trip. Split items among your laptop bag and luggage to save space and be prepared in case your checked luggage is delayed. I like to pack my socks and important items in my shoes to save space. As soon as I get to the hotel room I steam my shirts and pants in the shower. This gives them a clean, fresh appearance.
Chris Delgado (VP Sales, Briggs & Riley)
If the shoe fits…stuff your jacket
My packing strategy starts with “working around the shoes” and looking at what coordinates with a single pair of dress shoes. I make sure to select light weight materials and ones that don’t wrinkle. I confess to wearing workout clothes more than once. I fold slacks on the bottom and build from there, with the largest and heaviest items on the bottom. Socks and smaller garments get stuffed around the edges. I use shirts on my own hangers and use the hanging section in our Baseline or Transcend bags – then hang them up right when I arrive at my accommodation.
I love travelling with a jacket – I stuff the pockets with accessories, power cords and anything I can get in. The jacket goes through the security belt, and I don’t need to remove the electronics from my bag. No bling or big belt buckles are a cardinal rule. I’ve learned the system of what seats typically board first and aim to be one of the first to board to get good overhead space. I keep my briefcase under my seat, and am very careful to not overstuff it or take too much so that it absolutely fits under the seat. If you are going to overstuff, pick a bag that is softer like BRX or Transcend for the extra space.
Georgene Rada (VP Product Development and Design, Briggs & Riley)
Says 40% of what she originally lays out, gets scrapped as a “non-essential item”
I really do have a no- over packing philosophy, even though we make some very large bags to fit it all. I lay out everything in advance that I want to bring on a given trip, and then I look, think and cut out 40% of the stuff that isn’t essential at the last minute. I design my outfits around pieces that can work in multiple outfits and no one is really surprised when the designer from New York is wearing all black.
I make sure to have the right accent colors and in general, I stick to thin and lightweight clothing, wearing the bulkiest items while traveling to cut back on space. For toiletry items, I stick to travel-size and sample-size everything. I don’t know what I’d do without my specially designated “travel shoes” because they are easy to slip on and off at security, they are lightweight, and versatile.
Mike Scully (VP of Operations, Briggs & Riley)
Packs light with just enough
I’m a one bag; carry on kind of guy, though I recently converted to a rolling bag for the first time. It’s made me neater, perhaps because I now fold and am more conscious of space.
Organizing and compartmentalizing keeps my packing to a minimum. I pack neatly, stacking and laying items, putting socks in shoes to use all available space and separate shoes from clothing. A minimalistic and bare essential type of packer, I allow myself only one extra pair of pants and only one shirt for each day while I’m away. For shoes, unless I plan to hit the gym or beach, I stick to what’s on my feet; what can I say, I travel light. I get everything I need in, and I don’t mind an iron, that’s what they’re there for. I’m always glad I packed as lightly as possible.
Peter Mack (Director of Procurement, Briggs & Riley)
Layers like he’s heading to Alaska
The last time I traveled to Asia I swapped my old bag for a new one, downsizing from 24″ to a 22″ and got all my stuff in! The four straps on the side allow you to cinch down the bag and compress everything. Since most people tend to overstuff their carry on, they bulge out and then it’s not a carry on anymore. The straps saved me – any additional space is pulled right in.
I don’t carry that much – I prefer to do laundry on the road rather than carrying more or heavier luggage. When I have side-trips on a trip, I stay at one main hotel and leave my bag there for day trips, only taking exactly what I need for the smaller overnights. I roll because its wrinkle free – it really works. I’ve rolled sport coats starting inside out with the lining on the outside, place sleeves on inside, and start at the top by the collar and roll down to the bottom. The result: one fold line only, right down the back. I nest one shoe inside the other – flip them so they’re face to face or top to top with the openings on alternate sides. I always travel with a lot of layers on – a couple of smaller jackets and a sweater instead of a larger jacket which won’t fit into one suitcase and then I shed my layers on board.
Michael Siemank (Controller, Briggs & Riley)
Is not at all ashamed about over packing
I have a tendency to over pack. On a recent weekend trip, my adult kids got away with an overnighter, Transcend 22″, while I took a rolling duffle. I don’t care about the cost, I prefer having my stuff. I hate the hassle of trying to make sure to get on the plane early to get my carry on in the overhead bin. I hate that stress. Folding properly is the key to packing; as is planning ahead. I lay stuff out on the bed and take inventory. If I need it, it comes, if not, it stays.
Since Jet Blue is first bag free – I make a deal with my wife to stay under the 50 lb. limit – my wife is usually touching the edge, so we’ll switch things from bag to bag. If I have to pay, I pay, though I’m not thrilled about the new rules. I think it’s criminal that airlines are trying to dictate what I can bring with me. And Spirit…forget about it.
Andy Radcliffe (IT Director, Briggs & Riley)
Steals space from his kids
When traveling with my whole family, I make sure each member, including my two kids, has a regulation carry-on. I spread the same amount of clothing across all four bags instead of the two grown-up bags.
To save space, I rely on packing cubes, which segregate different types of clothing and create a mini-suitcase inside your suitcase. In recent years I’ve started packing less clothing with the thought that I can wash clothes on vacation, while staying at condos or rentals. I always make sure my clothing is wrinkle-free material and unpack immediately upon arrival.
In the past week, we’ve posted a lot about the upcoming carry-on fee being introduced on Spirit Airlines. In that discussion, a lot of commenters pointed out that too many people carry too much stuff on their flights.
I am guilty of refusing to check my bags (when possible), but I don’t feel like I’m cheating on the airlines – if anything, I think the airlines have been cheating us for years. Here are my top reasons to refuse checking bags:
Security has made checking bags a major hassle
The airport experience is a pretty lousy one. In the past, you’d walk up to a check-in desk, hand over your ticket to a smiling airline employee, and drop your bags on the scales. That was the last you’d see of them until you landed and retrieved them from the baggage carousel.
Nowadays, the TSA has added a second level of hassle to checked bags – and in most cases, you now show up at an electronic kiosk, and wait for a staff member to call your name and tag your bags. You then need to drag them over to a TSA screening station, and in some cases, this involves waiting in line until the agents have time for you.
It is obvious that airports were not designed to deal with this step in security, but the least they could do is make the wait shorter.
The price of checking a bag
I have elite status on several airlines, and when I’m lucky enough to fly them, I don’t pay for checked baggage. But every now and then I have to fly an airline I don’t frequent, and really don’t like the idea of paying to have a bag loaded in the hold.
If I fly with my wife and daughter and we all check a bag, the price of my trip could easily go up by $300 – even though I’m getting the same lousy service I always did. Am I saving $300 on my ticket price? Nope.
The “carry-on bag fee” annoys me because you are suddenly out of options – you can either pay to check a bag, or pay to carry it on board. Either way, the airline will make money off you.
You can’t trust the airlines (or the baggage handlers, the TSA, fellow passengers or the airport staff)
Once you hand your bag over to the airlines, it passes a large number of people. And sadly, airport staff are not all that reliable.
Bags are regularly emptied of all valuables, and even when they are offloaded, you run the risk of strangers walking off with them in the terminal. Since there are absolutely no safeguards in place, someone can walk into the terminal, walk up to the carousel, and steal any bags they want.
This is exactly how a baggage thief operated in 2009 – he simply walked up to bags, loaded them in his car, and sold the contents at a flea market on weekends. Total haul? Over 600 bags!
US Airports should look at airports in Europe where the luggage area is still a sterile zone – it won’t stop fellow passengers from stealing your bag, but it will keep non-passengers away from them.
Retrieving your bags takes too long
I once waited four hours for the airline to offload my bags. Now, I’m not important enough that every minute of my day matters, but after a long flight, the last thing I want to do is hang around the airport waiting for my bags to come down the belt.
I find the baggage carousel to be one of the most depressing parts of a trip – everyone is in a foul mood, they all just want to go home, and they’ll push you and your family out of the way to reach their bags when they spot them.
The great unknown of where your bag goes
The world of technology is weird – we wait at the airport gate, remotely streaming movies to our iPad, using the airport-wide wireless Internet service, but at the same time, airlines are often unable to reliably get your bags from A to B.
A recent report shows that airlines are losing 3,000 bags every hour, every single day. Even in this day and age, waiting at the baggage carousel is like scratching a lottery ticket – you just never know what will happen next.
And when airlines do lose your bags, you never know if/when you’ll see them again. In addition to this, airlines have very little respect for your belongings. It could be a minor fire that burns everything to ashes, or it could be your priceless guitar – but sooner or later, an airline will damage your belongings.
Why check when you don’t have to?
This one is the most important of all. Airlines allow me to carry one bag and one personal item. When I fly, I’ll carry a laptop bag and a 22′ rolling case. My case fits in the overhead (wheels first) and my laptop bag goes under the seat. With these two bags, I don’t have to check my bags – because the airline rules state I’m allowed to carry them on board.
If people are carrying too much on the planes, then the airlines shouldn’t penalize everyone with paid carry-on rules, they should enforce their own rules. Even with bag sizers and gate agents, people are dragging too much on board. Two bags is the limit? Then enforce that limit. The solution is not to start charging for carry-on baggage, and it isn’t in banning all carry-on bags.
The Crumpler “Old Banger” duffel bag is the duffel bag you pick if you need two things – a good looking bag, and a duffel that’ll survive pretty much anything you throw at it.
On the outside, the bag isn’t really all that special – but it is how it is made that really matters with this bag. Crumpler built this bag around the best possible materials – 900D water resistant fabric on the outside, and 150D ripstop on the inside. All zippers are “self healing”, which means they’ll actually realign themselves if something gets stuck.
All the stitching is “bartack stitching” which makes every seam extremely strong. In addition to this, some portions feature triple stitching. The end result is an amazingly sturdy bag – with good looks to match.
The carrying handles are neoprene cushioned, so even when you stuff it full of your travel items, it won’t hurt your hands (too much). On the sides are additional carrying handles – making it easy to pull out of an overhead storage bin. It does lack shoulder straps, but the carrying handles are long enough to be used on your shoulder or even as a backpack.
The outside is decorated with the Crumpler logo – and the bag itself is available in green/orange and blue/green color combinations. Like another of my favorite bags, I love the bright inner color on the Old Banger – perhaps i’m just weird, but I love wacky and bright colors on my bags. In addition to this, the bright inside also makes it easier to find things in the dark.
The Old Banger features 2 additional pockets – one on the outside (with an integrated key ring/strap) and one on the inside. All zippers feature oversized pull tabs. Despite the high quality materials and stitching, Crumpler managed to keep the bag to a mere 1.87 lbs (0.85kg). To test the inner storage space I took a quick unscientific approach – I moved the contents of my fully loaded 22″ roller into the Old Banger – and was able to pack it with ease (and close the zippers). In a day and age where gate agents are on the lookout for heavy looking bags, a duffel is probably going to pass their strict looks easier than an overweight rolling case.
The Crumpler Old Banger comes with a lifetime warranty – but it obviously only covers defects in workmanship, not wear and tear. The lifetime warranty only applies to the original owner of the product.
All in all, a well designed piece of quality luggage – at $105 it is most certainly not a cheap duffel bag, but if you treat your luggage as rough as I do, an investment in something better than a $10 drugstore duffel is a must. You’ll find the Crumpler Old Banger over at their US site, or through their global store finder.