Avoid lost baggage blues

Lost luggage seems to keep piling up. Here are some tips to keep your checked bags safe.

“Where are my bags?” It’s a question more weary travellers may be asking these days. In fact, the number of lost or mishandled baggage has doubled in the past five years, according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Statistics reveal that in the first nine months of 2007 alone, there were 3.45 million reports of lost luggage in the United States.

It’s a woe felt by travellers across the world. SITA, the IT provider which tracks baggage information for airlines in 220 countries and territories, says that for the nearly two billion of passengers who move through airports each year, 30 million bags are mishandled or lost. Luggage mishaps cost the air transport industry about $2.5 billion annually.

The worsening problem on both sides of the Atlantic are thought to be caused by increased airport congestion and security regulations, tight turnaround times and spiralling passenger numbers, all of which cause delays and complicate handling procedures.

Avoid baggage blues
The prospect of lost luggage fills even the most seasoned traveller with dread. Most of us know the feeling all too well: you’re waiting and waiting at the baggage carousel when the steady flow of bags onto the conveyor belt begins to slow – and then finally stops altogether. Your bags are nowhere to be seen.

Some travellers are so fearful of losing their luggage they resort to such drastic measures as refusing to check any bags at all, opting to make do with what will fit in a carry-on bag or shipping possessions separately. But if you’re not prepared to go that far, here are 6 tips to help keep your checked luggage safe.

1. Arrive at the airport early. If you check in at the last moment: you may make the flight, but your bags may not. The more time the airline has to get your bag onto the plane, the more likely it will actually arrive at your destination. If you’re changing plans, try to book flights that allow ample time for baggage transfer. Staying on the same carrier can also help.

2. Make sure you receive a claim check for every bag that you check. Also verify that the agent checking your bags attaches a destination tag to each bag. (To avoid confusion, remove tags from previous trips.) Finally, check to see that these tags show the correct three-letter code for your destination airport.

3. Use colourful tags, labels or straps for easy spotting. Many bags look alike, so a distinctive marking or colours will help you identify your bag better – this could also deter would-be thieves.

4. Label your baggage with your name and contact information, including cell phone number. For security reasons, it’s a good idea to use your business address instead of your home address. Remember to include labels on both the outside and inside of your luggage. That way if your external tag is removed, you still have the inside tag.