There are several common ways for suitcases to go missing
It’s an increasingly common complaint. Tens of thousands of air travellers each year have to experience the horror of losing their luggage. In 2010, airlines mishandled 12 bags per 1,000 passengers. Eventually, if a suitcase remains unclaimed after 90 days, the contents may even be donated to charity or sold as second-hand items. So how does luggage get lost in the first place?
Firstly, it may have the bad luck of being tagged with a badly printed routing label, or the label gets ripped off. It’s impossible to tell where it should be going, so it stays at the airport. Second, it often happens that passengers actually forget to pick up a bag after landing. They may be distracted or absent-minded – or a little drunk. Before they remember, an airport employee has taken it off the carousel. Third, very occasionally the check-in assistant accidentally puts the wrong destination code on the suitcase. The bag could then be on its way anywhere in the world. Fourth, luggage can be loaded onto the wrong aircraft, again due to human error. However, in these last three cases the tag should get noticed and the bag reunited with its owner.
Passengers are advised to: photograph or video the contents when they pack; ask to check if the tag has the correct final destination before it enters the conveyor belt; identify the owner in multiple places on the bag; make the bags look different to all the rest, for example with coloured handle tape; remove any loose straps; and arrive at the airport on time.