Luggage tags come in all flavours: from leather tags to smart tags, metal and aluminium — some even have GPS! Equally, you can always make do with a bit of paper.
Unfortunately, there are many guides on the internet to what to write and a series of several “helpful” but not entirely truthful ideas of what you should write down.
Eight out of ten passengers check in their luggage, most traveling with one bag, which amounted to around 4.3 billion bags carried in 202019 Baggage Insights — SITA
With 8 out of 10 passengers checking in their bags, having your luggage go missing at one stage is almost a certainty.
We’ve combined the real-world experience of baggage handlers and airline baggage claims staff, alongside the latest guidance from aviation authorities to bring you up-to-date, reliable advice on what airlines expect and how to fill out your luggage tags.
So, if you wonder why you need one or are wondering what to write on your luggage tag? — this short guide is for you.
Lost luggage — why do I need a luggage tag?
At some stage your bag is going to get lost. Lost luggage is such an inevitability airlines have devised their own metric for it! Lost luggage is measured in bags per 1,000 passengers.
Stats collated by SITA show that whilst lost luggage has declined dramatically, Globally in 2018 there were 5.69 bags lost per 1,000 passengers.
Looking at the stats, in 2018 you’re most likely to lose your luggage in Europe, followed by North America. The least likely place to lose your bag is in Asia.
bags lost per 1000 pax
North America —
bags lost per 1000 pax
bags lost per 1000 pax
To help with the reclamation process you could use a luggage tag. The first thing that an airline will do when your luggage has been reported lost is to look for this tag. It is the first — and often, only — way that airlines will try and return your bag to you.
3 luggage tag tips
1 — Double up and place a luggage tag inside your bag
Luggage is frequently lost as a result of damage — most international airports use hugely complex, automated baggage machines. If your bag finds yourself falling off the wrong elevator, baggage truck or catching in a machine damage ensues and your bag usually ends up lost.
Unfortunately, that means if you’ve attached your luggage tag to the suitcases handle, or tied it on the exterior — when your bags lost due to damage — so is your baggage tag. For this reason, it’s recommended to either place a luggage tag inside your bag — or to double up and keep a spare inside.
The first thing a baggage agent will do to try and located a damaged bag, is look inside for a luggage tag.
2 — Remove old luggage tags
We’ve all seen the cases.
The Suitcase is deliberately worn, showing off the array of tags and barcodes like a badge of honour or stamps in a passport.
Wow, you’re so well travelled.
Unfortunately, the airline’s baggage agent — trying to help you out and return your luggage — is not that impressed. There are plenty of stories of bags actually being sent back to travellers home addresses, when the passenger is on the other side of the world, or visa versa due to forgetting to take the previous legs tag off your baggage.
4.36 billion bags were carried in 2018. Staff trained to identify and return any lost luggage frequently have a huge volume of bags to sort in a very short space of time.
We have heard of baggage staff having to sort piles of nearly 1000 bags that have missed connections — and are now due to be returned to the originating airports — in one hour! They need to be able to identify your luggage, quickly.
If you are one of the unlucky ones with a lost bag, please try and make it easy for the staff to return it!
3 — Put it in a pocket without a lock!
It sounds obvious, but this frequently gets missed.
And here at thrillofthecase we’re guilty of it too. Checking out our fancy new smart luggage with TSA approved locks and digital combo, then realising that if anybody needs to look inside our bag to find our luggage tag they can’t!
Make it easy for the staff, if your main compartment has a fancy lock. Place your luggage tag somewhere easy to access in the bag.
What to write on your luggage tag
We’ll keep it simple. This is a definitive guide. We’ve asked airline staff, baggage handlers, it’s even advice on the CAA website.
There are only three things you need to write on your luggage tag. This is the same regardless of whether your luggage tag is digital, a QR code, or good old-fashioned pen and paper.
- Your full name and surname
- An email address** you monitor
- Your phone number AND the country code (+34 / + 49 / + 1 etc)
**It is advised to use an email address that isn’t a primary or work email. This is to stop phishing attempts. On the odd occasion your luggage falls into the wrong hands, its just good digital security to not have given away your full name, where you work, and your mobile number all at the same time!
What not to write on your luggage tag!
There are plenty of theories as to what you should or shouldn’t write on your tag — and some of them can sound quite plausible. But there is an excellent reason why you should only give the three details above, and no more. It’s all the airlines require, and any extra information doesn’t help them, but it could inadvertently make things worse for you.
Here are some popular things advertised under “what to write on a luggage tag” guides and why you shouldn’t.
01. Your home address
The idea behind writing your address is that airline’s will just directly send a bag to your home address, or that you are being helpful by including it.
The reality is that it is useless information for an airline, as airlines just won’t ship bags to houses without contacting the passenger first! They need to get in touch with you first for good reason, and while they are on the phone they will confirm your address. Besides, it is the 21st century, and you’re not an escaping film star paying cash at the airport — you bought your ticket through a credit card — airlines know where you live.
For privacy reasons though, you really shouldn’t be broadcasting your address and the fact you’re not at home for a significant amount of time.
02. Frequent flyer member tags
The idea is that you don’t need to provide as much public information, but the airline will know exactly what flight you’re on and where your bag should be. The reality — from several frequent flyers who have tried this — is that someone will steal your triple-platinum members tag, so they can get into the comfy airport lounge and have a glass of free champagne!
03. Your work address
Spare your boss from having to answer if he would like your luggage delivered whilst you’re on holiday.
As we said before, giving extraneous information about yourself in public is never really a good idea, but it’s also to no benefit. There isn’t an airline we know of that will mail a bag anywhere — let alone to someone’s office — without confirming the details with the passenger first. So if you really wanted your bag mailed to your office, you can do — when you tell the nice baggage recovery person where you want it mailed to. Meanwhile, its probably best not to confuse the situation — or your boss!