Skip to content

6 Mistakes That Will Get Your Luggage Lost at the Airport

Avoid these errors if you want to make sure your suitcases don't go missing.

Travel hiccups like flight delays and cancellations can cause serious problems, but for most flyers, losing luggage ranks pretty high on the list of the worst things that can happen on a trip. Some passengers will only pack a carry-on suitcase just to be certain their items will arrive at their destination along with them. But if your suitcase must be checked, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your suitcases don't end up missing in action. Read on for the mistakes that will get your luggage lost at the airport, according to travel experts.

RELATED: TSA Issues New Alert on What You Can't Bring Through Security.

You're not removing old tags and stickers

putting tag on checked luggage
Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock

Your checked luggage gets adorned with a new sticker on every trip you take. But if you're not careful, this could wind up creating a confusing mess for handlers.

"Flight crews depend on current bag tags and stickers to ensure each item is getting on the right flight," Audrey Kohout, CEO of Luggage Forward, tells Best Life. "If there are multiple old stickers and tags on your bag, the chances of the cargo crew scanning the wrong barcode increases."

"It's always best to remove all old stickers to prevent this from happening in the first place," she says, clarifying that the smaller stickers could be on a surface of your bag you don't expect, such as the side or bottom.

RELATED: 26 Best Trip-Planning Hacks Straight From Travel Agents.

You can't pick it out of a lineup

People grabbing bags from baggage claim
Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock

Bags don't just go missing because of mishandling. Experts point out that sometimes, they can get scooped up by accident.

"A suitcase that looks like many others (e.g., a plain black suitcase) has a higher chance of being mistakenly picked up by someone else," says Justin Albertynas, travel expert and CEO of the travel company Ratepunk. "Make it stand out, and have some fun with it too! Apply some personal stickers or get a more colorful suitcase to lower the chance of it getting taken by someone else."

You're creating a potential tangle risk

traveler putting bag through airport security
Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

The build of your bag can be important for more than just ensuring the items inside stay safe. Certain features could also make it more likely to disappear behind the scenes.

"Passengers often use luggage with straps for easier carrying. However, these have been known to get caught on equipment or accidentally wrapped around other people's luggage [that] handlers might incorrectly think belong together," says Anton Radchenko, CEO of flight compensation website AirAdvisor.

Unfortunately, any bags that get held up or sent in the wrong direction may not make it on your flight. "Essentially, anything that might slow your luggage's journey down as you travel puts it at risk of being lost," Radchenko cautions. "Keep things streamlined."

RELATED: Travelers Are Boycotting Southwest Over New Boarding Change.

You're not double-checking your tags or seeing your bags off

scanning luggage
Tyler Olson / Shutterstock

Mistakes can happen—especially in a busy setting like an airport. Take the time to glance over the essential documents that will determine where your luggage is heading.

"When your bag is being checked, make sure that the tags printing have the right info," says Clint Page Henderson, managing editor at The Points Guy. "Does it have the right airport and code? Your correct name and frequent flier number?"

He also adds that if you qualify for elite and priority tags, make sure they're added as well so your bag is whisked away to your plane as quickly as possible.

And before you turn to head towards your gate, he also suggests watching your bag go on its way. "Stay to make sure your luggage is put on the conveyor belt or added to the cart," he says.

RELATED: 5 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security.

You're getting to the airport too late—or too early.

woman waling through airport to security checkpoint
martince2 / iStock

No one ever plans to rush through the airport after arriving late. But if you're regularly down to the wire with making your flights, you're likely increasing the risk of your bags not making it to your plane.

This can also be a problem if you're on a flight with a smaller plane that can get loaded quickly. "In the case that there is an opportunity for a flight to depart earlier than expected, don't leave checking your bag to the last second," says Henderson.

But interestingly, it's almost essential not to check your bag too early. "If you show up four to six hours pre-departure to check in, luggage might go into a holding area instead of sorted into the area for your flight," he warns.

RELATED: 7 Clothing Items to Never Wear Through Airport Security, Experts Say.

You're not equipping yourself to find it

An AirTag is seen being connected to an iPhone. AirTag is a tracking device developed by Apple.

Having the correct information on the outside of your bag is the first step you should always take to ensure it'll find its way back to you. But experts say there are some other precautions you might want to consider to increase your odds of reuniting with it.

"Put a bag tag inside of your bag in addition to the one attached to the outside," says Henderson. That way, airline staff might still be able to get your suitcase back to you if the exterior tag gets torn off or broken.

And if you're really willing to invest, placing a tracking device in your bag can be one of the easiest ways to keep tabs on it for the duration of your trip. "The Points Guy team are big fans of Apple AirTags," says Henderson.

For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under