The holiday travel season can be stressful, but following these simple tips will help ensure your bags arrive when and where you do
As the holiday season approaches, airports around the world will be facing an influx of passengers, which means more baggage. In the height of the December travel season, one out of seven terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport on their peak day in December can process more than 27,000 bags alone. Paired with bad weather and delays, ensuring bags reach their correct destination is made an even more complicated and sophisticated process.
New technology developments, however, have helped automate the baggage process and reduce errors. According to the WorldTracer database, 14.28 bags per thousand passengers were mishandled worldwide in 2008, nearly a 25 percent improvement compared to 18.86 per thousand in 2007. The great majority were reunited with their owners in less than 48 hours, according to the SITA 2009 Baggage Report. However, the holiday season still brings an influx of checked luggage and mistakes can and do occur.
Technology from Siemens, a supplier of baggage conveyors and carousels, screening and sorting equipment, will be working overtime to process your luggage in many of the busiest airports in the United States, such as Kennedy Airport, O'Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport this holiday season.
Want to ensure your luggage is not lost or delayed? Lukas Loeffler, VP, Infrastructure Logistics for Siemens, recommends the following eight easy tips to ensure your baggage has a smooth and accurate journey to its final destination this holiday season.
1. Don't Wrap Holiday Gifts Before Flying
Many wrapping papers contain foil, which make packages in suitcases appear solid during the screening process, requiring the bag to be manually searched. To avoid having your presents unwrapped, wait to gift-wrap until after the flight.
2. Don't Book Tight Connections
The SITA Baggage Report said, "The single biggest problem for baggage handlers is when bags are being transferred from one aircraft to another." Not allowing enough time between connecting flights increases the probability of losing your bag. Tight connections will cause your bag to be rushed through the system or handled manually; increasing the likelihood your bags won't make your flight.
3. Check Bags Early
The introduction of online check-in has made the process much smoother and helps eliminate waiting in long lines. While you can check-in faster, if you are checking a bag, make sure to arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour before the flight. This allows enough time for the bag to go through the entire baggage system, eliminating the need to rush your bag through, when mistakes can be made.
4. Double Check the Destination
Check the destination code on the tag before leaving the bag to make sure it is going where you are. The baggage automation system reads this code to properly route your luggage, making it imperative that the correct destination is on the tag. Also, put proper identification both on the outside and the inside of your luggage as ID tags can come loose and fall off during processing.
5. Ensure Your Bag is Easy to Open
Security is a concern for many travelers. However, a bag that TSA can't open may cause delays and damage. If you use a lock, use TSA-friendly locks so that security can open your bag using a master key. Excessive wrapping of your bag in plastic or large belts can also cause delays.
6. Keep Straps Tucked In
Loose straps or bulky belts around the luggage may get caught in conveyer equipment. This not only damages your luggage, but can also cause further delays, as the bag will likely need to be removed from the system and processed manually.
7. Size (and Weight) Does Matter
Baggage systems are designed for standard luggage to be most efficient. If a bag is too large, or too bulky, you increase the chance of the bag having to be rerouted for manual sorting or extra security screenings. Small bags should be carried on, as they are also more likely to get lost along the way. Stick with standard luggage sizes, weights and shapes, as these are what the systems are designed for. Large items like golf clubs and skis are considered "oversize" for which there is a separate process and should not be a concern.
8. Stick to One Carrier
Booking through some travel sites may allow you to book connections with different carriers to get the cheapest flight. However, this also increases the likelihood of losing or delaying your bag. Different airlines often have two different systems for baggage sorting and luggage will have to be moved manually, which increases the probability of mistakes.