More fliers are becoming cautious of checking in their baggage on their next flight, and it might be for good reason.
About two months ago, a Florida airline subcontractor, Giovanni De Luca, was arrested in connection to the theft of $16,000 worth of items from checked-in luggage. One traveler reported items missing from his luggage and another reported that hers never arrived at her final destination. Thankfully, the latter had an Apple AirTag in her suitcase, and it led authorities to De Luca’s home, where some of the stolen goods were recovered.
For some, mishandled baggage is more than a financial hit – it can mean the loss of an important device that helps them “function and participate in everyday activities,” Emily Tuite, an Austin woman whose custom prosthetic leg never made it to her final destination last month, said. “Without it, I’m disabled.”
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These are just a few recent examples of how air travel disruptions have passengers wary of handing over their suitcases to an airline. In a September survey of over 1,700 Americans by TripIt, a trip-planning company, almost 60% said they’ve experienced some sort of disruption while traveling this past summer.
Of those, one out of six people said their luggage was lost or delayed. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, over 1.9 million bags were mishandled last year by U.S. air carriers. Experts agree that staffing shortages at airports, plus the high travel demand, have likely caused an increase in mishandled baggage, prompting a change in the way passengers pack and fly.
Ninety-three percent of travelers said they now have “changed their behavior when it comes to preparing for a trip” due to the increase in incidents.
“Whether experienced directly, or as seen in the headlines, travelers aren’t leaving anything to chance as they head into the fall and holiday travel season ahead,” Jen Moyse, Vice President of Product for TripIt from SAP Concur, said in a statement to USA TODAY.
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The survey found that for upcoming trips, 41% of Americans said they will avoid checking in a bag, and 23% will use back-tracking technology like an Apple AirTag if they do.
Moyse recommended that more travelers pack an AirTag or similar device as “one way to feel a bit more in control during travel.”
“AirTags have proven to be a reliable way to determine exactly where your bag is, but keep in mind that they don’t make it any more likely (or unlikely) for your bag to be delayed or lost and that no tracking device is infallible,” she said. “The real benefit is that you can have more information on where your items are, which can be especially reassuring if the airline itself doesn’t have an exact location for your bag.”
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She reminded travelers, “Make sure to pack your valuables, medications, a change of clothes, and any other important items in your carry-on since it’s less likely to be lost or delayed. While having a bag not make it with you to your destination is never a good experience, it can be slightly less disruptive if you have some essentials with you.”
It’s also recommended by travel experts to keep a detailed list and even take photos on your phone of what you’re packing in your check-in luggage. This way, travelers have proof of and know the value of the items being handled by the airline in case anything is to happen. Additionally, people can take photos of your luggage, noting other identifying features of it.
Of the survey respondents who experienced some sort of flight disruption this summer, only 16% received compensation and 73% “neither received or asked for compensation.” Part of that may be because people just don’t know how to go about the process, TripIt said.
The good news for delayed luggage is that airlines are required to compensate for “reasonable, verifiable, and actual incidental expenses that they may incur while their bags are delayed,” within maximum liability limits. If the flight is domestic, that amount is $3,800. The number is lower for international flights, though, at about $1,780.
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If your bag is lost, the airline needs to compensate you for its contents, taking depreciation into account and the same maximum liability amounts.
Passengers are recommended to check their airline’s lost luggage policy before departing on their flight. For example, Delta Air Lines passengers whose bags are delayed for at least 12 hours and submit a claim may be eligible for a travel voucher and “are entitled to reasonable expense reimbursements due to the delay of your bag(s)” of $50 per day.
If the process isn’t going smoothly with your airline, you can reach out to the Department of Transportation with a complaint.
For the record, people aren’t going to stop traveling this fall despite the increase in disruptions, the survey found. Nearly 100% of the survey respondents said they are still planning trips for the year ahead, whether that is visiting friends and family or going on a fall vacation.