For five years, I was an airline reservationist at American Airlines, who also answered lots of lost baggage calls.
I remember talking to a manager of a well-known band that called because his luggage went missing before their New Year’s Eve performance. I stayed two extra hours after work to call luggage rooms to make sure the celebration wasn’t ruined. I found every bag.
For travelers worried about their baggage going missing, I have four simple things you can do to help airlines keep track of your checked belongings. These aren’t secret hacks, but rather easy things every traveler can do to make the frustration of a missing bag a little less stressful.
1. Remove old tags
If your bag has a tag for Tokyo, it may not end up in Nebraska with you. Remove any stickers or tags that identify a different location from your current trip.
2. Avoid checking black luggage
I prefer black luggage. It doesn’t clash with anything and doesn’t look dirty. The downside: It blends in with every other piece of luggage in a lost bag room.
Choose a pattern or a color that will stand out. Take that band manager’s luggage as an example: His red-colored bag arrived on time, but the black luggage the band checked did not.
3. Add tags with your information
You can buy sturdy, permanent luggage tags with your information on it. These are much more helpful than a paper tag that can fall off when an airline is trying to reach you or identify your luggage.
4. Be nice to baggage agents
Yes, it was my job to help the band manager, but I spent extra time with him because he was kind.
Be calm when you call. Ask the bag agent to call or send a message to the local baggage office. If your baggage is lost for multiple days, they can also offer an allowance to buy clothes or other important items you need on your trip.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Delays, lost bags, complaints: How does your favorite airline rank?
7 ways your credit card could save you money on holiday travel
One former airline settles on $9.85 million for delayed baggage