How to use AirTags and other tracking devices to find lost luggage

Airlines have lost so much passenger luggage this summer that travel professionals are advising people against checking any luggage at all.

In fact, when you hand over your luggage to airline staff, you risk being separated from your belongings for the entire trip, or longer. Many airlines are facing a shortage of airport crews and staff, including baggage handlers, leading to baggage build-ups at airports around the world.

Airlines mishandled nearly 220,000 pieces of luggage in April, a 135% increase from the same month a year earlier. according to to the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. Flights at London Heathrow airport were so jammed that Delta Air Lines flew 1,000 pieces of stranded luggage to the US with no passengers on board the plane.

Frequent flyers say they’ve come up with an efficient, high-tech way to keep track of their checked bags when airlines can’t: pad their checked bags with Apple AirTags and other similar tracking devices.

“Bags get lost left, right and center, and most of the time the airline doesn’t just lose the bag, but also can’t tell if the bag is at its origin, destination or somewhere else,” the aviation analyst said. Alex Macheras, who has been using AirTags to track his belongings since Apple launched the devices in April 2021.

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Unclaimed bags are seen in a baggage claim area at Heathrow airport, west London, on July 8, 2022.

PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images


“This is a small area of ​​air travel that people can control when so much of the experience, like weather and delays, can’t be controlled,” Macheras said. “Anything that can give you that sense of control helps you have a more seamless experience.”

“The ground handling agents were amazed”

Half the battle in recovering lost luggage is, unsurprisingly, locating it. While airlines track checked bags with barcode luggage stickers, the codes must be scanned and cannot be accessed by customers.

“AirTags are great because you can track them yourself. You don’t need someone to scan a barcode,” said Clint Henderson, editor of The Points Guy, a consumer travel resource.

Macheras said he gave an AirTag to a friend he was traveling with in Europe and whose luggage was missing when they arrived at baggage claim at the destination airport.

“The baggage counter insisted that the bags were at our arrival airport, but we showed the ground handling agents that we could see that the bags were stuck in Paris,” Macheras said.


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That allowed the airline to load the baggage on the next outbound flight.

“The ground handling agents were surprised that we were able to tell the airline where the bag was,” Macheras added. “We got the bag the next day and they assured us that wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been an AirTag in the bag.”

How air labels work

Small, round Bluetooth devices that can be placed on a keychain as well as in a pocket, bag or suitcase, AirTags are designed to help users keep track of everything from wallets, keys and backpacks to pets and children. .

Apple sells a single AirTag for $29, while a pack of four tags costs $99.

Users pair the tags with a connected Apple device like an iPhone for constant tracking and the ability to locate lost items. AirTags send out Bluetooth signals that are read by nearby Apple devices, which in turn send you the location of your AirTag. Although the tags are designed for use with Apple products, there are apps available that allow limited use with Android. devices.

Similar tracking devices are also increasing in popularity. Tile, which makes competing products (compatible with Apple and Android devices) that can be placed or attached to one’s belongings and combined with an app, said more people are using the tags amid a rise in mishandled luggage.

In a more worrying development, however, AirTags have also enabled stalkers to keep an eye on unsuspecting targets by placing the wireless tags in the victim’s bag or inside the fuel tank of their car, for example.


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When your suitcase is in Dusseldorf, but you are not

The Points Guy’s Henderson noted that even if you can tell an airline where in the world your luggage is, they may not have the manpower to physically track it and ship it to you.

“You can tell the airline, ‘My bag is stuck in Amsterdam, I can see it there,’ but they can say there’s no one who can go get it for you,” he said.

Henderson said one reader was so frustrated by an airline’s inability to match it with his luggage that when an AirTag tracked it down in Dusseldorf, Germany, the passenger traveled there to retrieve the bag himself.

Frequent traveler Jassim Al Kuwari said he was recently separated from his luggage while traveling from Italy to Spain via Paris, France. His layover at Charles de Gaulle airport was so short (just 15 minutes) that he and his plane left without their luggage on board.

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Jassim Al Kuwari said that AirTags helped him and his friends stay connected with their luggage while traveling.

Jassim Al-Kuwari


“I ran to the lost and found counter to report that my bag was missing, and Air France had no idea where it was. Thanks to the AirTags, I was able to tell them where my bag was and I got my bag back,” Al Kuwari told CBS MoneyWatch.

Today, AirTags saves Kuwari from having to wait at the baggage carousel not knowing if his bag will show up or not.

“Every time I’m at my destination, I open the app and I can tell if my bag is there or not. If not, I don’t waste time waiting for my bag, I just go and report it,” she said.

AirTags have not worked so well for everyone. Some users have complained that tracking is delayed or inaccurate.

“In general, they’re pretty reliable,” Henderson said. “We haven’t heard any stories of people not being able to locate luggage. I’m leaning towards them as an investment.”

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