Get rid of those old baggage tags

I’m one of those people who, when travelling, removes those old baggage tags from luggage.  It’s not that I’m a neat freak, far from it, in fact, it’s just that I want to limit the chances of my luggage going astray, so removing old tags increases the ability of baggage handlers to ensure that my luggage ends up in the right place.

I often see people at airports keep old tags on bags, possibly because it’s a way of telling other passengers that you are well travelled, or have recently visited some remote or rarely-visited destination.

Back in the days when ocean travel was the best way to travel around the world, people would travel with trunks.  It was the done thing then to keep your old destination labels on the trunk.  Not only was it a good way to decorate a battered trunk, but it reminded you of where you’d been.  Also, if you were travelling by ship, your luggage would end up on your ship, and the chances of your luggage getting lost, because it was taken to your cabin, were negligible.

Call me naive, but I’ve never really thought much about how our luggage seems to find us when we travel around.  But I’ve just found out how the system works, and now I’m more convinced than ever that one should remove old tags.

You see, once a bag is taken by airline counter staff it just disappears from view, it travels down long belts at 2 metres (7 feet) per second as lasers try to read its destination from matchbook-size bar codes affixed at check-in. If you keep your old tags on your luggage, and they aren’t removed by counter staff, those old tags confound the scanners. Computers eject those bags for manual handling, which increases the risk of misadventure – because the human handlers deal with hundreds of bags at a time, which are going to a number of different destinations – you luggage can inadvertently get put on the wrong flight.

Also, if a conveyor belt stops, usually because a loose backpack strap gets caught in machinery, thousands of bags can pile up and an ordered system becomes disorderly.  If you bag has too many tags, it can easily be put on a flight to one of your previous destinations.

In an average year about 31 million bags are lost globally, and of those, about 1.8 million never see their owners again.

Your bag is one very small needle in one very large haystack, so remember – if you want to increase your chances of your bag arriving on the same flight as you get rid of those old tags!

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