Lost baggage claims are skyrocketing. In 2013, airlines mishandled 21.8 million bags, or 6.96 per 1,000 passengers, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology company that tracks baggage performance each year. This is an important statistic for attorneys who are required to travel frequently.
Scott T. Mueller's book, The Empty Carousel: A Consumers Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage, offers advice on what you can do to minimize the risks of mishandled luggage.
Very simply, the baggage handling system is a nightmare for the airlines. Like it or not, it's complex, and daunting. "When you check your baggage, you are gambling that whatever is in your luggage is going to arrive safe. Luggage is often lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered," says Mueller.
Strategies for Preventing Lost Luggage
Lack of proper identification is the number one reason why bags are not reunited with their owners. While the most obvious solutions are to book a nonstop flight or pack everything in a carry-on, clearly this won't work for everyone. If you need to check a bag, Mueller offers the following strategies to help ensure that your luggage stays on track.
- Proper Identification: The name on the bag has to match the name of the person traveling and the name, address and telephone number must be written clearly and understandably.
- Secure Luggage Tag: The name tags must be sturdy and attached firmly enough to withstand getting caught and pulled in mechanical belts and stresses the baggage will experience as they are transported through the system and handled by workers. The best place is to put identification into a holder that is flush with the design of the luggage or bag and make sure they are affixed firmly and securely to the bag.
- Itinerary in Suitcase: You should put a legal size sheet of paper with your identification and itinerary into a plastic zipper locking bag and place it inside your luggage right on top, so that it is clearly visible when someone opens your bag looking for identification. Your name and telephone number is good enough for the airline or a law enforcement inspector to locate you.
- Use a Luggage Strap: You should also add a colorful and unique visual means for identifying your luggage and distinguishing it visibly quickly and reliable from other people's luggage of the same color and appearance. Add a colorful or unique ribbon or rag.
- Confirm Luggage is Checked All the Way to Destination: When you check in, make sure that you ask the airline to check your bags all the way to your destination.
Making sure that you follow these steps does not guarantee that your bag will not get lost. But it will improve your chances of avoiding a problem, says Mueller.
Attorneys should also remember to never put important your lap top, case files, or a client's personal information in your checked luggage. With the advent of cloud computing and wireless access, there is very little need to carry large case files with you.
Another tidbit that most travelers don't realize these days is that you can buy and use a US Travel Safety Administration approved lock. This way you can lock your luggage and inspectors can still inspect your bags without causing dame to the lock or the bag. If you don't use a TSA approved lock, you should just use a zip tie to secure the luggage zippers.
Yet, the most important advice Mueller suggests to travelers is really simple. "If you can't replace it, live without it, or seal the deal without it, don't pack it."