Sooner or later, everyone travelling on business has their luggage lost. While airlines are generally getting better at keeping track of your bags, there are some steps you can take to avoid the inconvenience and frustration of lost baggage.
Before you leave home
Try to fit your luggage into a carry-on bag to avoid having to check a bag at all. If you must check a bag into the hold, make sure that you have everything you need for the next day in your carry-on. That way, you're not wearing the same clothes two days in a row if your baggage is lost.
Instead of writing out your name and address on a piece of paper, slip your business card in the transparent card window. Write the date, your flight number and destination hotel (plus their phone number) on the back. Your luggage will then be easily identifiable if the airline baggage tag is lost. If your bag doesn't have a transparent card window, put your card in the top outside pocket instead.
Ensure you remove any previous baggage tags from your case, and give the bag a once-over for those small extra barcodes that some airlines peel off the main tag and stick on the back and sides of your luggage.
Make your bag stand out from the crowd. A black 22-inch wheeled carry-on bag in a pile of lost luggage is like a needle in a haystack, and is easily mistaken by others as their own bag. Buy coloured luggage next time, or consider stencilling an initial on it in bright colours. Even a black bag is more noticeable if it has a distinguishing mark of some kind. But avoid tying loose ribbons to your bag: these are more likely to get your bag stuck in the luggage system.
Take a quick snap of the contents with your phone camera before you zip up the bag. Most lost luggage forms ask you to state the contents, and if your bag ends up permanently lost then you'll have a better case with your travel insurance.
Keep a copy of your itinerary with dates and hotels in an inside pocket of your bag if you're on an extended trip. You don't want your lost luggage to arrive at your Paris hotel the day after you leave for Frankfurt.
At the airport
Make sure the bag tag is correct, especially if you have a connecting flight. You don't want your luggage to stay in Singapore if you're connecting on to London. Take a quick peek at the airport codes (and know the ones you're travelling to) whether you're being checked in by an agent or printing your own tag at a kiosk. Your US-bound luggage could end up in IAH (Houston) instead of IAD (Washington Dulles).
Entitled to a priority tag? If you're in business or first class, or are a high-tier level elite frequent flyer with your airline, make sure that your bag has the fluorescent priority tag on it. Your luggage won't always come out first, but it's only possible if it's tagged properly.
If you're checking yourself in at a kiosk, make sure that you peel off all the backing from the adhesive section. Don't leave a strip waving in the breeze, because the tag is more likely to fall off -- or be yanked off by the moving parts in the baggage system.
Using a Qantas Q bag tag? Double-check that it's securely attached to your bag and that you haven't left another one inside a pocket by mistake.
Make sure you know where your bag will come out, especially if you have a priority tag on it. At some airports, staff pull priority-tagged luggage off the carousel for you and put it in a special area.
File a claim at the airport immediately if your luggage is lost, and make sure that you detail where you'll be for the next week or two so that your luggage can reach you directly rather than following you around the world.
What's your top tip for keeping your luggage safe and delivered to the right place? Share your top tips in the comments section below or tweet us: @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.