Losing things abroad is unfortunately an integral part of travel.
I sometimes think of things I’ve lost on vacation – a beautiful blue scarf in Dublin, a worn-out jacket on the walls of Antibes – and I like to imagine them all together somewhere, off on an adventure like a complete outfit .
But there’s no doubt that losing an entire suitcase, containing all the things you had specifically packed as essentials, is far more infuriating. And that’s been a sad reality for many travelers this summer as airlines and airports get back up and running after COVID.
More than one million bags were lost at least temporarily by American airlines between January and June this year, official figures show, at a rate of 0.62 mishandled bags compared to 0.44 in the same period last year.
The number of travelers declaring lost baggage jumped 30% this year compared to 2019, according to Spanish insurance company Mapfre.
During what some have dubbed “the summer of lost luggage,” the media was filled with extraordinary stories of travelers going the extra mile to retrieve their belongings. We revisit a few here and follow the trend of the season.
The rise of technology in finding lost bags
Apple’s “Find my iPhone” app was launched over a decade ago and has helped countless people find their lost or stolen cell phones. In September 2019, the tech giant upgraded its service to a more general “Find My” app for all of its devices. It has proven to be very useful for travelers.
A British Airways The passenger who left his Airpods on a flight from Texas to London in June spent weeks watching them move with the suspected thief via the Find My app.
Another man traveled over 4,000 miles and spent £2,300 (€2,656) to recover headphones he lost in a theft, after chasing them around the world for five months.
“I didn’t really expect to get them back and I joked that flying to Doha to get them back was the meanest thing I’ve ever done,” he told the news site. JOE. “But it’s great that we managed to find them – and now I don’t need to buy a new pair!”
Of course, most people are unlikely to put their Airpods away during a flight. It’s a new device that has really taken off when it comes to finding stuck suitcases: the Airtag.
Apple launched its tracking device last April: a small gadget the size of a 1 euro coin, designed to help people keep track of keys, purses and other valuables.
The Bluetooth-connected device works by sending a secure signal that can be detected by devices in the “Find My” network, which then send the tag’s location to the iCloud where it can be seen on the Find app My from your phone – provided you first registered there.
In August, an Airtag helped bring justice to Florida when it led to the arrest of an airline employee accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from luggage.
An investigation has been launched after a passenger reported that her bag never reached the final destination. An Airtag in his suitcase led police to the airline employee’s home.
Should we be wary of using Airtags?
With the number of lost bags on the rise, it’s understandable that people are becoming more tech-savvy and praising the rise in vigilantism these devices inspire.
But knowing where your bag is doesn’t necessarily get it back faster, and there’s a darker side to Airtags, too. Domestic violence charities have noted an alarming rise in the number of stalkers using them to keep tabs on ex-partners, hiding them in cars and coats, for example.
“I saw Airtags on sale in my local supermarket,” said Emma Pickering of the charity Refuge. Guardian. “People see them, think more about following, and the concept of following becomes more established. We normalize it.
As always, it’s important to think about the flip side of overly inviting new technologies into our lives, when regulations and safety standards often lag behind.
As frustrating and dangerous as lost baggage can be – for those transporting medical equipment – it should also be remembered that besieged baggage airline staff are far more likely to be on the other side of the equation than a fickle thief.
A human touch goes a long way too. Berlin writer Erin Porter was able to help recover her stepfather’s misplaced bag by following advice she found on a Facebook advice group called BER Airport security and check-in.
“People have reported success going to the lost baggage counter and begging or hassling their way through the baggage hall to find their bags themselves,” she wrote.
“After waiting in line for over an hour, my husband was ready with information he had about the bag, theft and even a Vollmacht (authorization) from his father.” They were allowed into the luggage room and found it within 30 minutes, proving that an old fashioned luggage tag certainly did not outlive its usefulness.
Why have so many bags disappeared?
London’s Heathrow Airport made headlines in June when a pile of lost luggage started causing a stink in Terminal 2.
A technical failure of the airport’s baggage scanning system was to blame in this case, but the airlines are responsible for most of your baggage’s journey.
Airport security scans outgoing baggage, but the rest of the process is handled by airlines and their ground agents who check baggage, load and unload it from planes, and bring it back to baggage halls for people to check in. recover.
Most of the baggage that goes missing is transfer baggage that misses its connections, either because the first flight is late or because the airline does not have the necessary number of ground handlers.
Ground staff struggled with particularly precarious working conditions over the past two years and, like others in the aviation sector, resorted to strike action this summer, further adding to the travel and baggage chaos.
However, it is also essential that airports remain up to date. Heathrow is looking to replace its Terminal 2 baggage system, which is over 50 years old.
An airport spokesperson adds that more than 99% of bags have traveled with their owners in the past five years.