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Lost Luggage: New Tech and Trusted Tips

Lost Luggage: New Tech and Trusted Tips

Jammed airports and planes this summer will inevitably mean more checked suitcases, duffels and backpacks that don’t show up at baggage claim.

Tight — some would even say unrealistic — flight schedules and continuing staffing shortages put pressure on luggage management systems, said Jamie Larounis, a travel industry analyst at Upgraded Points. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to get luggage across a large airport and onto departing aircraft. “The slightest delay of a plane coming in can domino to the next because bags can’t get from one to the other,” Mr. Larounis said.

Airlines and airports are developing new technology to help those systems shepherd your bag through the conveyor belt maze quicker and more efficiently.

SITA, an air travel technology company whose WorldTracer system is in use at 2,200 airports globally, is teaming up on new initiatives. For example, it recently tested a system with Lufthansa to automatically reroute luggage that missed its flight onto the next available flight and let passengers know the new arrival time. That notification saves passengers from having to go speak to someone in the arrivals hall.

A system made by Siemens can read crumpled or partly obscured paper tags. It’s being used at several airports in the United States and internationally.

BAGTAG, a Dutch company that makes electronic luggage tags, is working with carriers like Alaska Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa and Swiss to phase out paper tags in favor of e-tags, which could help reduce mishandled luggage because they’re made of durable plastic and are less likely to be mangled or torn off.

Alaska Airlines is introducing electronic tags to a group of 2,500 fliers now and plans to make them available for sale this fall.

The good news is nearly everyone is eventually reunited with checked luggage. Last year, the vast majority made it back to their owners without a hitch. Out of the 470 million total bags checked on U.S. carriers in 2022, about six out of every 1,000 were mishandled (lost, damaged, delayed or stolen), according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And only a tiny fraction of luggage is never reunited with its owner, according to SITA — about one in 2,250 bags.

So what can you do to leave the baggage carousel with a smile on your face this summer?

Arrive early so your checked bag has plenty of time to make it to the plane. Fly nonstop when possible, because every transfer increases the chance of a mishap. If you do need to…

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