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Never Do This After Checking a Bag, Flight Attendant Says

This one habit could help ensure you'll be meeting your luggage at your destination.

The experience of traveling can be full of excitement and adventure. Unfortunately, it can also become a nightmare if things start to go wrong. Whether it's a canceled flight or an unexpected delay at security, even the tiniest snag in your plans can have an outsized effect—especially if it involves your luggage. Many people go to great lengths to ensure they arrive with their suitcases, including refusing to hand them over and only traveling with a carry-on. But if you're looking to avoid any issues, experts say there's one trick you should remember whenever checking a bag for a flight. Read on to see how you can help ensure your belongings end up with you when you land.

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Flight attendants advise you always to do one thing with your bags when you travel.

girl with suitcase on escalator
De Visu / Shutterstock

Whether you're trying to avoid pricey baggage fees or simply don't trust airlines with your belongings, it's not uncommon for travelers to skip checking their luggage on a flight. But experts say you may be doing yourself a disservice by struggling with your mountain of bags through the airport.

"Some passengers are completely covered with sweat from carrying too many personal items, backpacks, and carry-ons," Arina Bloom, a flight who worked in the industry for two years, wrote for Business Insider. "It's so much easier to check your luggage and walk on the plane relaxed and stress-free."

While fretting over the possibility of your baggage going missing is enough motivation for many to pack light, data shows it may not be as much of a concern as it once was. That's likely thanks to new technology and improved practices that have made it an increasing rarity. In 2020, only 3.5 bags per 1,000 passengers were lost, marking a 37.5 percent reduction from the previous year, according to a report from SITA, an air transport communications and information technology. By comparison, 18.9 bags were lost per 1,000 passengers in 2007.

And even if you don't feel like splurging to have the airline take care of your suitcases, there's a good chance you can get away with having it stowed for you without spending a cent. "It's also not always possible to find a space for everyone's bag, so your extra items may need to be checked regardless," Bloom says. "If you're worried about paying extra, ask an attendant at the gate. They're usually happy to check it for free if the flight is full." But if you have more oversized items that you know you'll have to hand over to an agent at check-in, you should still keep one thing in mind.

Never forget to do one thing after you check your bags for a flight.

A family wearing face masks speaks with a ticket agent at the airport

Once you've decided to hand over your suitcases to ground crew, it can feel like matters are entirely out of your hands for better or worse. But if you're not careful with your travel plans, you might end up causing a serious mess for yourself.

"One thing you should never do after checking a bag is assume it's going to your final destination–especially if you are entering the U.S. from abroad," Becca Siegel, co-owner of, tells Best Life. "The reason is that coming back, say, from Mexico into Miami, when your final destination is New York, your checked bag will come off the plane and will need to be collected and re-checked."

Siegel explains, "this is something peculiar to the U.S., and it's because of claiming customs." But she also says that it can happen in other countries, pointing out an experience in Jamaica where her baggage wasn't automatically sent through before a connecting flight to South America.

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Experts say you should always be sure of one thing before handing off your luggage.


After deciding to check luggage, travelers can sometimes take some serious extra steps to ensure they're only temporarily parting with their belongings, from attaching a tag with contact information to slipping location devices into their suitcase. But one of the easiest steps to remember is to watch your bags and ensure that a luggage handler has placed them onto the conveyer belt behind the counter and sent to your aircraft, according to experts from The Points Guy. This can be especially important if you're doing a curbside check-in or running slightly late for your flight.

A little preparation can also make it easier to retrieve your luggage.

Passengers waiting at baggage claim

Even though you may feel powerless once you've handed off your bags, there are still ways you can keep tabs on them once they're out of your sight. According to flight crew, downloading the airline's dedicated app can give you up-to-the-second location updates on your luggage, from when it's loaded onto or off the aircraft and when you can expect it to hit baggage claim. This can also make it easier to collect compensation if it takes you a little longer to collect your things due to a handling delay.

And even though you think you may have picked the perfectly unique suitcase that matches your personality, you can rarely go too far on making it easy to pick out of a lineup. "My luggage tags are colorful so I can spot my bag on the belt easily," Heidi Ferguson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry, tells Best Life. "And the only identifying info is my name and a Google voice number, not my real number."

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