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Apple’s handy $45 solution to lost luggage problems: AirTags

As air travel returns there have been a number of instances of this common travel annoyance. But this flyer has found an easy solution.

Recently I caught a United Airlines flight between Mobile, Alabama, and Dallas Fort Worth, Texas, where I was supposed to meet my connecting Qantas flight and sail seamlessly home to Sydney.

Or at least I would have if I hadn’t been delayed in Mobile – and then transferred onto a different United flight – because of a great big lump of tornadoes between me and Texas.

Anyone who’s ever transited in the USA knows that sinking feeling: will I make it to the secondary airport in time to make my connection onto my flight back to Australia?

And then if I do, will the ground staff have the time and the organization to get my luggage off that first delayed flight and transfer it seamlessly onto the flight I need to get home?

Or will my luggage vanish into the giant labyrinth of global luggage exchange, leaving me at home without clothes, makeup, medicine and – most dire of all – that cool souvenir that I promised my kid?

Certainly that was my worry when I finally arrived in Dallas with minutes to spare. As I sprinted to the Qantas airline counter and checked in, my big concern was my bags. “Are you sure you’ll get them onto the plane?” I begged the attendant breathlessly.

“It’s fine, we do this all the time,” she assured me.

Turns out she was right and my bags – thankfully – made it to Sydney. But not everyone’s so lucky.

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In fact baggage loss associated with flight transfers are on the rise. That’s where 40 per cent of bag mishandling happens, according to air transportation IT company SITA.

Lost and missing baggage overall is skyrocketing; spiking 24 per cent in 2021 – now up to 4.35 bags per 1000. Nearly three-quarters of those bags are delayed – up 2 per cent from 2020 – and around 6 per cent get lost altogether.

But one frequent traveler has found a genius way to keep track of his bag as it transits through airports and between planes, so that he knows where they are at all times, even when the ground staff may not be entirely on top of things. And it will only cost you $45.

Ross Feinstein, also known as the Points Guy, was traveling on a recent ski trip from New York to France, with a connection in Madrid. But when he arrived in Spain to collect his luggage, ready to transfer it to his flight to France, the rest of his gear arrived on the carousel but his skis were nowhere to be seen.

“I started to get nervous – I was the only one left waiting at the carousel and over-size bag area,” he wrote – a sinking feeling that anyone who’s ever watched that whirring rubber carousel turn emptily will relate to. “Where were my skis?”

But Ross was in luck. He had recently purchased a nifty little Apple device called an AirTag – which is $45 from the Qantas store (hey, you can even use your Points to buy them; if airlines are going to lose your luggage you may as well milk their rewards to buy the antidote). He had tagged everything he was traveling with – including his skis.

An AirTag works like the ‘Find My Phone’ app on your iPhone – only you can slap it onto anything: your luggage, your wallet, your passport, even your toddler if you’re so inclined.

You can then check an app to see where your tagged item has ended up.

Instantly, Ross was able to flip open his “Find My …” app and see that his skis had been left beside his NY-Madrid plane, and for some reason hadn’t been brought to the carousel.

He alerted ground staff who reunited him with his skis right away and he was able to successfully check into his France flight and be on his way.

“The AirTag certainly saved my ski vacation” he wrote.

There’s no question that baggage bungling is on the rise all over the world.

Last month, entertainer Rhonda Burchmore tweeted that she was left without costumes for her show Paris cabaret after her luggage was left behind on a Qantas Brisbane to Melbourne flight.

Then this month – the Flying Kangaroo again – passengers to London discovered their bags had been left in Darwin because a problem with the runway meant the plane was forced to take off with a lighter load.

Elsewhere, bags have been disappearing to wrong destinations or ending up with the wrong passengers or simply vanishing altogether – either lost or stolen.

There is no doubt in my mind that astonished businessmen in Bangalore are right this minute unpacking bikinis belonging to Miami spring breakers, or ground staff in Germany are having a surreptitious field day pocketing a suitcase full of electronic goods that were meant as a birthday present for a kid in Dubai.

An AirTag can’t instantly reunite you with your favorite pair of Reg Grundies or that dog-eared novel that you finally planned to finish on the beach in Fiji. And I can’t guarantee that some of those businessmen in Bangalore won’t keep one or two of your bikinis before returning your suitcase. Who can say.

But at least with an AirTag you might have some idea about where to start looking.

Read related topics:QantasSydney

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