Lost luggage: How a tiny tracking device saved me from every traveller’s worst nightmare

Lost luggage: How a tiny tracking device saved me from every traveller’s worst nightmare

Full disclosure: after a decade of being a travel writer there are still some things I need to work on. Like putting a spare pair of pants, or even just a toothbrush, in my carry-on baggage.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way when my suitcase went missing last month on a flight from London to Lima via Amsterdam.

Трубочисты Петербурга

I was left with nothing but a backpack stuffed with my workout gear, some English breakfast teabags, a laptop (but no adaptor) and a notebook.

The one item that helped save my sanity was the tiny, one Euro-sized piece of kit stashed away in my lost luggage.

One year ago, I invested in Apple AirTags — tiny trackers that rely on Bluetooth and can be used to track a wide range of items, from suitcases and wallets to bicycles and laptops.

How do luggage trackers work?

After placing an Apple AirTag in my suitcase, all I need to do is open the Find My app on my iPhone to see the current location of my checked baggage. And keys, purse and passport wallet, for that matter. What can I say? I’m prone to losing stuff.

Airline employees don’t generally share travellers’ new-found love of luggage trackers, perhaps due to stories about passengers refusing to board their plane until they can see their suitcase has been loaded.

In my case, despite a three-hour stopover in Amsterdam, I could clearly see that my checked baggage hadn’t been loaded by the time the airline employee at the gate was shepherding the last remaining stragglers onto the aircraft.

Both of my flights were on the same ticket, and my luggage should have been automatically transferred from one flight to the next.

Airlines vs luggage trackers: Whose data is more accurate?

Reluctant to kick up a fuss (I’m British, after all) I took my seat on the plane and raised my concerns with a member of the cabin crew. Unsurprisingly, it prompted the type of withering look a parent might inflict on an over-anxious child.

I explained that the airline in question had lost my luggage on the previous occasion I’d flown this route, and the flight attendant told me they’d be able to see straight away whether or not it had been loaded using their in-house tracking systems.

A minute or so later, the same flight attendant triumphantly marched down the aisle and said, “It’s just been loaded onto the plane. See? I told you those trackers aren’t always accurate.”

Perhaps foolishly, I took him at his word. I was reassured by his promise that my suitcase hadn’t decided to opt for an extended layover in Amsterdam, and considered the reality that perhaps my beloved luggage tracker wasn’t that accurate after all.

This made it even more frustrating to arrive at the luggage carousel at Lima airport in Peru to hear a member of staff calling my name. It turned out my suitcase had never left Amsterdam, after all.

Tamara after picking up her suitcase (left) containing an Apple AirTag (right).Tamara Hinson

Tracking my lost luggage across continents

The next 72 hours were chaotic, to say the least. I was assured my bag would be placed on the next flight to Peru, but I could clearly see it was stuck in Amsterdam and in no particular rush to leave.

I had no choice but to board the flight to Cusco I’d booked for the next day, and was told my suitcase would catch up with me within 24 hours. Later the next day, I could see it had finally moved into a loading area at Amsterdam airport. My tracker then went dark — a sure sign it was en route to Peru.

Sure enough, my tracker showed that it arrived at Lima airport around 12 hours later. Which would have been brilliant, but the airline employee I phoned upon its arrival — to ensure it was sent onto Cusco — wasn’t convinced.

I spent the entire day checking on my bag’s location, pulling my hair out as it languished somewhere near a Starbucks at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, while flight after flight to Cusco departed.

On the third day, I received an unexpected automatic update confirming that my bag had finally been loaded onto a Cusco-bound flight.

At Cusco airport, my tracker proved its worth again. I could see my missing bag was sitting airside, but the airline employee I approached at the airport knew nothing about it.

It was only when I showed him my app — complete with the tiny suitcase symbol showing my luggage was next to an airside luggage carousel 30 metres away — that he believed me.

And then, after three days of wearing the same dress and wondering if I’d ever see my suitcase again, something wondrous happened: the airline employee disappeared to retrieve my bag, and moments later, I saw the tiny suitcase symbol on my app start to move in my direction.

Tamara in Peru after being reunited with her suitcase.Tamara Hinson

What are the pros and cons of luggage trackers?

My suitcase saga highlights one obvious issue with trackers. Yes, I can clearly see where my suitcase is, but if an airline employee doesn’t care, or is relying on technology that suggests it’s somewhere else, there’s little I can do.

In fact, I might argue it’s even more frustrating to be told, when I’m informing an airline employee of my bag’s location, it’s still on a continent it left hours ago.

In my case, a particular highlight was being told that my bag was on its way to Glasgow, shortly after I could see it had arrived in Peru.

On the plus side, despite my bad luck, checked baggage rarely goes missing. Yes, the number of bags misplaced by airlines is currently at an all-time high, but we’re still only talking about 7.6 bags per 1,000 travellers, according to 2022 data from airport IT systems handler SITA.

For me, perhaps because I’ve been scarred by the somewhat disproportionate number of times my bag has gone AWOL, it’s more about peace of mind.

I no longer stand at the baggage carousel, gnawing at my nails and picturing myself spending the next three days brushing my teeth with a twig and wearing the same crumpled dress I put on 15 hours previously. Because, in most cases, my tracker shows me that my luggage made it onto the same flight.

But I’ve also changed my ways, and make sure my carry-on bag contains a spare pair of pants, a toothbrush and a change of outfit, alongside those all-important English breakfast teabags. Oh, and yet another tracker, just in case my cabin bag goes missing too.


Нажмите, чтобы оценить статью!
[Итого: 0 Среднее значение: 0]

Показать больше

Добавить комментарий

Ваш адрес email не будет опубликован. Обязательные поля помечены *

Add your own review


Кнопка «Наверх»