When you check in your luggage for air travel, you receive a receipt or tag that has a few tracking numbers on it. Those tracking numbers help your air carrier locate the bags, should they become lost. Finding your lost luggage without the tracking numbers presents a serious challenge, but if you're persistent -- and especially if you thought ahead and took a few preventative steps before you set out on your trip -- you have very good odds of being reunited with your lost bags.
1. Start With a Smile
Losing your luggage is a stressful experience -- but do your best to remain polite and patient with the airline employees you ask for help. They probably spend most of each shift dealing with frustrated travelers; the easier you are to deal with, the more likely they are to want to go the extra mile and help you find your luggage quickly.
2. Present Your Tickets
Be prepared to present your travel tickets to the employees -- they may be able to use those as a starting point to access the tracking numbers for your luggage in their computer system. As long as you're waiting, use the time to fill out lost luggage forms. You'll need to provide a clear description of your bags, including approximate dimensions, color, luggage tags and any other identifying features. You may also need to list the contents of the bags. Some travelers take a digital photo of their bags and the contents -- just in case -- to make this part of the process easy.
3. Look for Twins
If your lost bags aren't terribly distinctive looking, it's possible that another traveler may have grabbed them by mistake. You'll probably be waiting around after all the other travelers have cleared out anyway, so scan the luggage area for any lingering bags that are twins or near-twins to your lost luggage. Your travel carrier might be able to use the information on those bags to track down the traveler who mistakenly took your bags.
4. Go High Tech
Mobile tracking devices were once the stuff of James Bond movies and government spies -- but they're now available to the general public too. If you thought ahead and put a specialty tracker in your luggage, such as the battery-powered Apple Airtag, you can track the lost luggage yourself via your iPhone. Some high-tech luggage tags also come with codes that can be scanned or input online to help anyone who's found your bag identify you as the owner.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Once you notice your bags have gone missing, don't delay; some travel carriers will only honor lost luggage claims made within a few hours of your arrival. According to Airline statistics, less than 1 percent of luggage is permanently lost -- and that's usually because there's no identifying information on the bag to help it make its way back to the owner. So always use your bag's built-in labels to record your name, address, mobile number and email address. If your bag doesn't have a built-in label window, attach an external luggage tag and place your contact information somewhere easy to find inside the bag as well.