Airlines have lost so much passenger luggage this summer that travel professionals are advising people.
Indeed, when you hand your luggage over to airline staff, you run the risk of being separated from your belongings for your entire trip — or longer. Many airlines are facing shortages of crew and airport staff, including baggage handlers, resulting in baggage pile-ups at airports around the world.
Airlines mishandled nearly 220,000 bags in April, a 135% increase from the same month a year ago. according at the Aviation Consumer Protection Bureau. Flights at London Heathrow Airport were so supported in the US with no passengers on board.
Frequent flyers say they’ve found an efficient — and high-tech — way to track their checked bags when airlines can’t: stuffing their checked bags with Apple AirTags and other similar tracking devices.
“Baggage is being lost left, right and centre, and most of the time the airline has not only lost the bag, but they also can’t tell you if the bag is at its origin, destination or somewhere else,” the analyst said aviation. Alex Macheras, who has been using AirTags to track his belongings since Apple launched the devices in April 2021.
“It’s a small area of air travel that people can take control of when so much of the experience, like weather and delays, can’t be controlled,” Machairas said. “Anything that can give you that sense of control helps you have a smoother experience.”
“Groundhandlers were amazed”
Half the battle in recovering missing luggage is, unsurprisingly, locating it. While airlines track checked baggage with bar-coded baggage stickers, the codes must be scanned and inaccessible to customers.
“AirTags are great because you can track them yourself. You don’t need anyone to scan a barcode,” said Clint Henderson, editor at The Points Guy, a consumer travel resource.
Macheiras said he gave an AirTag as a gift to a friend he was traveling with around Europe whose luggage was missing when they arrived at the baggage claim of the destination airport.
“The baggage office insisted that the luggage was at our arrival airport, but we were showing the ground handling agents that we could see that the luggage was stuck in Paris,” Macheiras said.
This allowed the airline to load the luggage onto the next departing flight.
“The ground handling agents were amazed that we could tell the airline where the bag was,” added Macheiras. “We received the bag the next day and were assured that this would not have happened if there was no AirTag on the bag.”
How AirTags work
AirTags — small, round Bluetooth devices that can be placed on a keychain as well as in a pocket, bag or suitcase — are designed to help users track everything from wallets, keys and backpacks to pets and children.
Apple sells a single AirTag for $29, while a pack of four tags costs $99.
Users pair the tags with a connected Apple device such as an iPhone for continuous tracking and the ability to locate lost items. AirTags send Bluetooth signals that are read by nearby Apple devices, which in turn send you the location of your AirTag. Although the tags are designed for use with Apple products, there are apps available that allow limited use with Android Appliances.
Similar tracking devices are also growing in popularity. Tile, which makes competing products (compatible with both Apple and Android devices) that can be attached or attached to one’s belongings and paired with an app, said more people are using the tags amid a surge in luggage which are not handled properly.
In a more worrying development, however,to track unsuspecting targets by placing the wireless tags in the victim’s bag or inside their car’s fuel tank, for example.
When your bag is in Dusseldorf, but you’re not
Henderson of The Points Guy noted that even if you can tell an airline where your luggage is, they may not have the manpower to track it down and send it to you.
“You can say to the airline, ‘My bag is stuck in Amsterdam, I can see it there,’ but they might say there’s no one who can go get it for you,” he said.
Henderson said one reader was so frustrated by an airline’s inability to reunite him with his luggage that when an AirTag tracked it down in Dusseldorf, Germany, the passenger traveled there to retrieve the bag himself.
Frequent flyer Jassim Al Kuwari said he was recently separated from his luggage while traveling from Italy to Spain via Paris, France. His layover at Charles de Gaulle airport was so short—just 15 minutes—that he and his plane left without his luggage.
“I ran to the office to report my bag missing and Air France had no idea where it was. Thanks to AirTags, I was able to tell them where my luggage was and I got my bag back,” Al Kuwari told CBS MoneyWatch .
Today, AirTags frees Kuwari from having to wait around the baggage carousel not knowing whether his baggage will show up or not.
“Whenever I’m at my destination, I open the app and I can tell if my bag is there or not. If it’s not, I don’t waste time waiting for my bag, I just go and report it,” she said.
AirTags haven’t worked so well for everyone. Some users have complained that tracking is either laggy or inaccurate.
“Overall, they’re pretty reliable,” Henderson said. “We haven’t heard any stories of people not being able to locate luggage. I’m leaning towards them as an investment.”