This summer has been a trying time for airlines worldwide, as they've scrambled to keep up with increased travel demand amidst record staffing shortages and inflation concerns. The consequential results are innumerable flight delays, cancellations and — you guessed it — lost luggage.
At London Heathrow Airport (LHR), the situation has deteriorated to the point where airport executive management has asked airlines to stop selling tickets through September so that circumstances have a chance to improve. In fact, CNN recently reported that Delta flew a flight filled with 1,000 bags and zero passengers from London to Detroit in an effort to restore lost baggage amid LHR's air travel meltdown, now being referred to as "airmageddon."
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, mishandled baggage complaints are currently 200% above pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 220,000 bags listed as "mishandled" in April 2022.
Why is this happening?
Pent up travel demand has resulted in an influx of travelers to the world's airports, but the infrastructure is no longer in place to contend with this sudden travel frenzy. Airlines are dealing with shortages of pilots, luggage handlers and other essential staff after struggling financially during the pandemic.
How long is this expected to last?
Experts expect this level of air travel chaos to last through the summer, as it tends to be the peak season for travel. Luckily, things are expected to calm down by mid-September, as kids go back to school and the weather starts to turn. Once fewer people are traveling, airlines will have time to catch their breath and regain control over the situation.
Tips for keeping track of your luggage this summer
What can you do to cope with the air travel meltdown? Here are our best tips for protecting your baggage this summer.
Get a credit card with baggage insurance
Many credit cards offer travel insurance, which may include luggage protection, rental car insurance, trip interruption insurance and more. Now more than ever it's essential to make sure you're covered in case of a travel-related incident. Travel credit cards offered by American Express, Chase and Capital One tend to include top travel protections, which are worth considering if you're thinking about opening a new card.
Buy an tracker to follow your luggage
Around $30 can give you immense peace of mind during these tumultuous times in air travel. Simply tuck away your tracker (the Apple AirTag or Tile Mate are good choices, for example) in your checked luggage and instantly track your bag's location right from your phone. This way you'll be able to keep tabs on whether your bags have made it onto the plane and easily find them again when you land.
Only carry-on when possible
The absolute best thing you can do to avoid a luggage mishap is to keep your bags with you. Only bring a carry-on if possible and be sure to utilize the personal item your ticket likely comes with.
Make your bag easy to identify
Should anything happen to your bags in transit and you need to recover them, make sure they're easy to find. Attach ribbons or stickers to make your bag easily identifiable, and don't forget to include a luggage tag with your name and contact information.
Remove valuables from checked luggage
If you have to check a bag, be sure to remove all your valuables. Don't pack any medications, jewelry, electronics or anything you can't live without in your checked baggage, just in case.
Don't wait to report a problem
If your bags aren't waiting for you at your destination, get the recovery process started right away. First head to the baggage claim customer service desk and report your bag as missing. Give them your information and let them know where you're staying so they can send it right to your hotel once it's found. Save all your documentation and be sure to follow up with the airline should your baggage still not arrive.