How to Cope With Lost Luggage Chaos This Summer

It’s official. Baggage handling at airports around the world is in a state of complete chaos this summer.

Some of the stories doing the rounds are barely believable. Like the American Airlines passenger who was told by text to go pick up his lost luggage from Heathrow Airport – when he was already back home 4,000 miles away in North Carolina. Or the passengers at Edinburgh Airport who had to queue outside for hours during the recent record-breaking heatwave to reclaim their luggage.

The global meltdown in baggage handling has exposed just how hard the aviation industry was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years of airlines and airports operating at a fraction of capacity (if at all) because of travel restrictions, staff numbers in the industry have been decimated.

So while ordinary travelers have flocked to get away again after the lifting of restrictions, the industry has been caught woefully unprepared. Put simply, there just aren’t enough baggage handlers working at airports to cope with the passenger volumes. Inevitably, that leads to bags going missing, whether they are put on the wrong plane or just get left behind because ground teams ran out of time loading a plane.

The situation has also led to a bitter war of words between airlines and airports. One major airline accused Heathrow of being ‘incompetent’ over its baggage handling issues, while Heathrow hit back by saying airlines were profiteering by continuing to sell tickets above and beyond what they know airports can handle.

In the middle of it all, of course, are ordinary holiday makers. If you have a holiday booked this summer, there is a very good chance you could arrive at your destination without your luggage. That’s not a great way to start any holiday, especially if you have children.

So what can you do? Nothing can entirely protect you from the huge inconvenience of your luggage going missing in route to your holiday destination (or not arriving back with you again). But there are a few things you can do to at least alleviate the pain. Here’s how to prepare yourself.

How to Cope With Lost Luggage Chaos This Summer

Invest in some GPS tracking tags

This hi tech update of the traditional name and address label won’t guarantee your luggage arrives in the right place at the right time. But what it will do is make it easier to find out what has happened to your luggage (or at least where it is) if it does go missing.

GPS luggage tags use the same satellite tracking technology that your car’s SatNav or your phone’s geolocation settings use to pinpoint position globally. From your phone, you can see exactly where your bags are.

If you’re really lucky, your GPS tags could even help speed up your reunion with your bags – like the Air Singapore passenger who used his baggage tags to turn detective and tracked his missing luggage down to Melbourne Airport.

Buy travel insurance

If you do land at your holiday destination and your luggage is nowhere to be seen, there’s an obvious financial implication. You will have to go out and replace at least some of the things in your missing cases – clothes, toiletries, kid’s toys etc.


You might even have packed a couple of gadgets into your hold luggage. Longer term, if your bags never turn up (and in the current climate there’s no guarantee they will), you will have to face the cost of replacing them, too.

Lost luggage cover is a standard part of travel insurance, precisely because travelers who have been separated from their bags end up having to go out and replace what they’ve lost. The financial hit just adds insult to injury. At least if you have travel insurance, you’re not worrying about the extra cost it piles on top of your holiday. You can go out and buy what you need, and put in a claim later.

Pack as much into your hand luggage as you can

If there are things you absolutely want to make sure you have when you arrive at your destination, put them into your hand luggage. That means they come with you onto the plane, you’re not handing them over to anyone, there’s no chance of them being put on the wrong plane. You’re not trusting to the whims of over-stretched baggage handling operations.

Passengers have even been advised to only travel with hand luggage, not only to avoid belongings going missing, but to take the strain off airport staff and reduce queuing times. However, understandably that’s not practical for everyone, especially for longer trips. What you can do, however, is spread the load between hold and carry-on luggage, making sure you have some clothes, toiletries etc in your hand bags

In the current climate, it’s also highly advisable to take all high-value items, including gadgets, with you in your hand luggage.

What you will have to contend with, of course, is hand luggage size and weight limits. These vary from airline to airline, so check the rules for your carrier early and plan ahead to work out what you can get away with.

If you are wondering which airlines have the most generous hand luggage policies, British Airways is tough to beat. Not only does it allow small carry-on cases and hold-alls weighing up to 23kg, it also allows an additional smaller ‘hand bag’ per passenger also with a maximum weight of 23kg. That’s 46kg in total per person – if you can pack it into bags with the right dimensions, that should easily be enough to get you through a week away.