Airlines have lost so much passenger baggage this summer that travel professionals are advising people.
In fact, when you hand your baggage over to airline employees, you risk being separated from your belongings for the duration of your flight – or longer. Many airlines are facing shortages of crew and airport staff, including baggage handlers, which leads to baggage accumulation at airports around the world.
Airlines mishandled nearly 220,000 pieces of baggage in April, up 135% from the same month a year ago, according to To the Aviation Consumer Protection Bureau. Flights at London Heathrow were heavily subsidized to the United States with no passengers on board.
Frequent flyers say they’ve come up with an effective – and high-tech – way to track their checked bags when airlines can’t: stuff their checked baggage with Apple AirTags and other similar tracking devices.
“Bags get lost left, right and center, and often times the airline hasn’t simply lost the bag, but it’s also not able to tell you if the bag is at its origin, destination or elsewhere,” said an aviation analyst. Alex Macheras, who has been using AirTags to track his belongings since Apple released the devices in April of 2021.
“This is a small area of air travel that people can take under their control when a lot of the experience, like weather and delays, can’t be controlled,” Machiras said. “Anything that can give you that sense of control helps you have a smoother experience.”
“Ground Handling Agents Amazed”
Half the battle in recovering lost luggage is, not surprisingly, locating it. While airlines track checked bags using baggage labels with barcodes, the codes must be scanned and cannot be accessed by 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.
Macheras said he gave his AirTag to a friend who was traveling with him around Europe and whose luggage was missing when they arrived at the baggage claim center at the destination airport.
“The baggage office insisted that the bags were at the arrival airport, but we were showing ground handling customers that we could see the bags stuck in Paris,” Macheras said.
This allowed the airline to load luggage on the next departing flight.
“The ground handling staff were amazed that we could actually tell the airline where the bag was,” Machiras added. “We got the bag the next day and they assured us it wouldn’t have happened if there was no AirTag in the bag.”
How does AirTags work
AirTags – small, round Bluetooth devices that fit on a keychain as well as in a pocket, purse or suitcase – are designed to help users keep track of everything from purses, keys and backpacks to pets and children.
Apple sells one AirTag for $29, while a bundle of four costs $99.
Users pair the tags with a connected Apple device such as the iPhone for continuous tracking and the ability to locate lost items. AirTags sends Bluetooth signals that are read by nearby Apple devices, which in turn sends 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 Hardware.
Similar trackers are also growing in popularity. Tile, which makes competing products (compatible with both Apple and Android devices) that can be affixed or attached to one’s belongings and paired with an app, said more people are using tags amid the increase in improperly handled baggage.
But in a more disturbing twist,To monitor unsuspecting targets by radio-tagging in a victim’s bag or inside their car’s fuel tank, for example.
When your bag is in Düsseldorf, but you are not
Henderson of The Points Guy noted that even if you can tell an airline where your baggage is in the world, they may not have the manpower to actually track it down and send it back to you.
“You can tell the airline, ‘My bag is stuck in Amsterdam, I can see it there,'” he said, “but they might say no one can go and get it for you.”
Henderson said one reader was so frustrated by an airline’s inability to bundle him with his bags that when AirTag found it in Düsseldorf, Germany, the passenger flew there to retrieve the bag himself.
Frequent flyer Jassim Al-Kuwari said he was recently separated from his bags while traveling from Italy to Spain via Paris, France. His layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport was very short – only 15 minutes – and he left with his plane without his luggage on board.
“I ran to the lost and found office to report my bag lost, and Air France had no idea where it was. Thanks to AirTags, I was able to tell them where my bags were and got my bag back,” Al Kuwari told CBS MoneyWatch.
Nowadays, AirTags prevents a quarry from having to wait around the baggage circuit without knowing if his baggage will show up.
“When I’m at my destination, I open the app and I can see if my bag is there or not. If not, I won’t waste time waiting for my bag, just go and report it,” he said.
AirTags didn’t work well for everyone. Some users have complained that the tracking is either late or inaccurate.
“Overall, they are fairly reliable,” Henderson said. “We haven’t heard any stories of people who haven’t been able to locate their belongings. I lean toward them as an investment.”