A beginner’s guide to baggage tracking

If you have an overseas trip coming up, you might be wondering if you should invest in 2022’s most-discussed travel accessory – the baggage tracker.

While missing bags have always been a potential issue when traveling, the spike in demand for pandemic travel combined with a global shortage of airport baggage handlers has led to skyrocketing cases of, well, lost cases.

It’s little wonder, then, that passengers are keen to keep tabs on their bags. Of course, knowing where your bags are and being able to access them are two different things – but if you’re after some reassurance that your belongings haven’t just vanished into a void at the end of that conveyor belt, baggage tracking devices and services can provide that peace of mind.

Here is a quick guide to your baggage tracking options.

* Lost luggage: Why you could be out of luck if you bought items to tide you over
* Lost airline luggage: How to recover your bags and get what you are owed
* What to pack in your carry-on luggage amid the travel chaos

3 bluetooth trackers to check out …

A bluetooth tracker is a small gadget that lets you monitor the location of whatever it’s attached to through your phone, tablet or computer.

They’ve been around for ages, mostly used by forgetful types to keep track of frequently misplaced items like wallets and keys. But amid the lost baggage chaos, they’ve found a whole new market of anxious travelers.

A global shortage of baggage handlers has resulted in a surge in the number of bags being delayed or lost.

Getty Images

A global shortage of baggage handlers has resulted in a surge in the number of bags being delayed or lost.

You might have heard of Apple’s AirTag, thanks to headlines like this one. The first thing to know about the AirTag ($ 55), is you do also need an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to use it with. You’ll need to connect it with the compatible Apple device, so it will show up on the Find My app.

Once set up, the coin-sized tracker can be popped inside your bag (or attached to the outside with a special keychain or strap).

The way AirTag works is by sending out Bluetooth signals that are picked up by other compatible Apple devices – so basically, as long as someone with an iPhone is nearby, it will be able to passively share the location of your AirTag with Apple’s servers, so you can see it on the Find My app.

Apple AirTag's cost $ 55 and allow you to track the location of your bag using an iPhone.


Apple AirTag’s cost $ 55 and allow you to track the location of your bag using an iPhone.

If you’re not an Apple user, don’t worry – there are other bluetooth trackers out there. Tile has a range of trackers (like the Tile Mate, $ 34.95) that work with both Android and Apple devices, using the free Tile app. Like Apple, it relies on a network of Tile devices that communicate with each other over bluetooth.

If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, there’s also the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag ($ 49).

But are bluetooth trackers worth the hype? Stuff Travel reporter Alan Granville and his husband di lui recently traveled back from Europe with a Tile in each of their two bags, and found the trackers came in handy when their bags didn’t end up making it on the plane during a tight connection.

The trackers were able to communicate what the airline could not – the location of the bags. And while it took multiple emails, calls and a begging message on social media for them to eventually be reunited with their belongings, it was the trackers that gave them the information they needed to solve the case.

And a tracking service to know about …

Some travel agencies and travel booking websites offer a lost baggage tracking service operated by a company called Blue Ribbon Bags.

Kiwi travelers might come across this service in Flight Centre’s new Captain’s Package add-on, which includes several features designed to give travelers greater peace of mind when booking a trip.

So what is it, and how does it work?

It turns out, travelers can also purchase this service directly themselves, via the Blue Ribbon Bags website. Starting from US $ 5 (NZ $ 8), the New York-based company promises to track and expedite the return of your undelivered baggage. If it’s not found after four days, they’ll give you US $ 1000 per bag – which you get to keep even if they end up being returned later.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, there are a few catches to be aware of. If your bag doesn’t show up, you have to first file a claim with the airline, and get a mishandled baggage report from the airline containing a unique identifier number.

You then have to share that report and number with Blue Ribbon Bags, and you have to do all this within 24 hours of your flight landing. Blue Ribbon Bags says it will then step in to use its systems to locate and expedite the return of your bags – but by that point, you’ll have already done the lion’s share of work yourself, by filing the claim with the airline.

As for that $ 1000 payment, it appears many travelers have been tripped up by the company’s terms and conditions, which state that your bags are considered “returned” when they arrive at the airport – and not actually in your hands. So even if your bags are still stuck in the airport after several days, you won’t be eligible for the compensation.