Do luggage tracking systems work? You bet.
Will they keep your checked bag from disappearing the next time you fly? Maybe.
True, sophisticated new technologies are being introduced that track your belongings from airport to airport. The latest is Delta Air Lines’ $50 million system, which uses Radio Frequency ID (RFID) cards to keep tabs on your luggage. And fewer checked bags are vanishing as a result. The global airline industry’s mishandled baggage rate fell to 6.5 bags per thousand passengers last year, down 10.5% from 2014 year and less than half the rate in 2003, according to the information technology company Sita.But don’t rely on your airline to track your bags the next time you fly, and even if it does, you shouldn’t assume it’ll always work. In fact, there are far more reliable ways to ensure your belongings don’t get lost than trusting your airline.
The most obvious way — and one that virtually all of the gee-whiz news coverage of tracking systems has missed — is to never hand your checked bag over to an airline. Pack light and tight and use the overhead compartment. It’s easy to keep tabs on your bag. Just open the bin to make sure it’s still there. Problem solved.
If you must check your bag, consider tracking it yourself. The most popular methods are long-range tracking solutions like LugLock and Trakdot, and new luggage with built-in sensors.
Jeffrey Kolker has used Trakdot, a $49 gadget (service fee not included) that uses cellular technology to keep tabs on his valuables. “It works,” says Kolker, an accountant from Pryor, Okla. Except when it doesn’t. In order to use Trakdot’s mobile app, you need cellular service or access to Wi-Fi. On a recent flight to Italy, when his bag was lost, he had neither.