Summer of lost baggage: Tips for protecting your luggage when flying

Bags getting lost amid constant flight changes, labor shortage

FILE - A woman carries her luggage down the stairs at the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File) (Michael Probst, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DETROIT – Not all who wander are lost ... except when it comes to the luggage wandering with you.

Air travel has increased tremendously this year, with more and more people traveling during the summer and summertime holidays. But air travel has not exactly returned to normalcy.

This summer, air travelers around the world have experienced more inconveniences than ever: canceled or delayed flights, long lines and, perhaps the worst of all, lost luggage. With unexpected flight changes and a significant labor shortage, checked bags are literally getting lost in the commotion.

According to the most recent Air Travel Consumer Report, nearly 220,000 bags were lost or damaged in the U.S. in April alone. Last week, a Delta plane flew from London to Detroit carrying 1,000 lost bags -- and no passengers -- in hopes of returning the luggage to their rightful owners.

More: Delta flew 1,000 lost bags from London to Detroit after cancelled flights

So, what can you do to keep your baggage from getting lost?

Well, the first and most obvious step you can take: Don’t check a bag for your flight, if you can help it. Instead, pack only a carry-on, that way you can keep it close by. Carry-on bags are not stored beneath a plane, but rather in the storage compartments overhead in the plane’s cabin.

Carry-ons must meet certain requirements in order not to be checked in. You can review luggage guidelines for air travel here.

However, it is not always feasible to just pack a carry-on, especially if you’re traveling for a long period of time.

If you absolutely must check a bag for your flight, experts say to consider following these steps:

  • Place a small GPS tracking device inside of the luggage;
  • Take a picture of your valuables inside the luggage; and
  • Know your rights when it comes to your luggage.

Airlines are required to take action when your luggage is lost. Travelers are eligible for compensation from airlines for up to $3,800 for lost bags for domestic flights, or up to $1,780 for an international flight.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines may determine a bag is lost between five and 14 days after the flight, depending on the airline and a number of factors. The airline is required to compensate the traveler for their bag’s contents, up to the maximum limits, in addition to refunding any fees paid to the airline to transport the bag.

Airlines are also on the hook for damages to bags, with certain limitations. Learn more about your rights when it comes to lost, delayed or damaged baggage from the DOT right here.

Related: New technology at Detroit Metro Airport aims to speed up the travel process

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.