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The One Mistake That Keeps Getting Your Luggage Lost, According to an Airport Employee

By Stacey Leasca, T+L

Add this to your to-do list before your next trip.

Even though old airline stickers or tags on your luggage may show off your travel prowess, the flex may be causing some confusion at the airport — and could result in your luggage getting lost.

"Let's say you flew American, and then a month later, you flew Southwest," an airport worker at the Ontario International Airport shared in a recent TikTok while unloading luggage behind the terminal. "Well, there's a little sticker that goes on for American that tells the computer that it should go there," he said while pointing to a different luggage carousel.

"So if your month-old American sticker is on there, there is a chance it scans instead of this one," the worker said, noting, "It might end up over there and not get on the plane."

The video has garnered more than 20,000 likes, more than 1,000 saves, and hundreds of comments praising this much-needed advice. Some commenters, however, noted that they always assumed airport workers, including gate agents, would remove the tags if they were problematic, while others assumed there was an expiration date encoded on the tag. 

"There should be something that says 'remove after trip,'" one commenter suggested. "Nice to know [now] but, this is not general knowledge, [but] now I know." 

If you do find that your luggage is lost due to either leaving a tag on or an airline error, there are a few ways to try and track it down. First, let your airline know your luggage is missing immediately. You can do this by going to the terminal help desk or by calling your airline's helpline directly. 

Additionally, Richie Copelovitch, the chief merchandising officer at iFLY, previously shared with Travel + Leisure, it's key to not allow the airlines to forget about you over time. 

"Don't let them forget about you. Do it nicely," Copelovitch said. "The airline does not care that you will not have clothes for Aunt Millie's wedding, don't tell them the stories that they don't need to know. It won't get you your bag faster."

Also, ensure that your bags are fixed with personalized luggage tags with your name and email, ensuring airport workers can find you once they find your bag. You can also use one more high-tech trick: Airtags. Pop one in your bag and track it wherever it goes, keeping your personal belongings on a digital leash at all times. 

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