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How AirTags helped me get my delayed bags back (twice in one trip)

Aug. 07, 2022
12 min read
pile of luggage
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If you're a regular TPG reader or not, you've probably heard about the chaos that is travel this summer, especially in Europe.

In late June, I embarked on a three-week trip from my home in Austin to Chicago, Amsterdam, Madrid, Mauritius and Frankfurt. I knew — I just knew! — that a travel mishap would occur. Surprisingly, none of my flights were canceled or significantly delayed. However, my suitcase and I did spend 9 of our 21 days on the road apart from one another. Luckily, we were able to stay connected — virtually.

Over the past few months, we've written extensively about how AirTags (and Android-friendly tracking devices) are a must in the current travel environment. As one example, TPG contributing writer Ross Feinstein saved his ski gear from missing his connecting flight in Madrid on a trip from New York to France earlier this year by alerting a baggage agent that it had been left planeside next to his first flight. Without this knowledge, he would've had to rent ski gear at his destination.

Given that you can pick up an individual AirTag for less than $30 or a four-pack for less than $100 on Amazon, I want to share why I think a tracking device for your checked baggage is a travel must-have.

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A little bit of context: This isn't the first time this has happened to me

I think it's helpful to point out that up until 12 months ago, an airline had never misplaced my bag. In the past year, however, it's happened three times — all at European airports.

Last summer, I flew from Washington D.C. to Brussels on Brussels Airlines. While I was in the air, my onward connection to Madrid was canceled, but I didn't discover this until I checked the departure board upon arrival in Brussels.

Luckily, the airline had automatically rebooked me on another Brussels Airlines flight to Madrid just an hour or so later. However, when I got to the gate, I discovered they had oversold business class tickets (and I was flying on a ticket in that cabin). I asked if there were any available seats in economy class — they said yes but I was only allowed to fly in business class. (What?! Also, business- and economy-class seats are virtually the same on most flights within Europe.)

After unsuccessfully trying to board that flight, I went back to the lounge and asked an agent to book me on the next available flight to Madrid, which was on Spanish flag carrier Iberia. Iberia and Brussels Airlines are not in the same alliance, but the agent still secured an (economy-class!) seat on this flight for me. Almost three hours later, I arrived in Madrid. My bag did not, perhaps because of all the flight kerfuffle.

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My suitcase actually arrived in Madrid the next day, but Iberia's baggage systems did not alert me to this. Three days later, I went back to the airport to check where my bag was, and no one could locate it. I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia, via Istanbul that night for the next chapter of my trip. (Georgia is a fantastic place to visit, by the way.)

Finally, eight days later, Iberia delivered my bag to Tbilisi, just in time for me to fly back to the U.S. In the meantime, I had stocked up on 250 euros' worth of clothes from Pull & Bear (and Iberia reimbursed me for the full amount within a month).

https://www.tiktok.com/@omfgrant/video/7122249498889489710?_t=8U9BpKNXTVG&_r=1

Where did I go wrong? Nowhere, really — it was the airlines' fault. However, I didn't have AirTags last year (they launched in April 2021).

Total days sans bag: Eight.

Stress level: 8/10.

Where's my bag? The 2022 edition

Fast forward to this summer and I returned to Europe in early July (with a little side trip to Mauritius, which I'll get to in a second.)

I had read the horror reports from travelers without their bags, so I took advice from The Points Guy himself Brian Kelly who, on an Instagram story, urged travelers to pick up some AirTags. I bought four, putting one in my suitcase, carry-on, car and bicycle.

Amsterdam was my first stop. You've probably read the reports of what a hellhole Schiphol Airport is this summer. Luckily, I had booked my KLM flight from Chicago to Amsterdam at the start of the year and actually didn't have any issues arriving in Amsterdam. In fact, immigration took all of five minutes and my suitcase was already waiting for me on the baggage belt.

After my three-day stay in the beautiful city, I headed back to Schiphol for another flight on Iberia to Madrid (will I ever learn?!). I think the only reason I was able to check my bag in and pass through security on time was because of my elite Oneworld Sapphire status, even though I was flying in economy.

I again arrived in Madrid and spent some quality time — with all the other passengers on my flight — waiting for my bag. I checked my phone and my AirTag said my bag was still in Amsterdam, right at the gate where we had departed from. Because it was my first time using the AirTag, I wasn't sure of its accuracy, but it had indeed updated within the past five minutes or so.

Once I showed this to the other passengers, things started to click and we all lined up at the (now familiar) baggage service counter to lodge our claims. (It turns out Iberia had left everyone's bags in Amsterdam.) After 45 minutes, I received my case number for my delayed bag and walked out of the airport.

Luckily, I was staying with a friend in Madrid, who couldn't believe I had lost my suitcase two years in a row. I went to his closet and picked out some clothes to wear for my three-day visit, making sure to not repeat the outfits I had worn when I borrowed his clothes the year prior.

The next day, the AirTag showed that my bag finally arrived in Madrid. However, over the following 48 hours, Iberia's online baggage claim system did not show any updates. We called them on the third day, and they said their system still didn't know where the bag was.

I knew where my bag was before the airline apparently did. (Photo by Matt Moffitt/The Points Guy)

On my final day in Madrid, I went to the baggage service desk once again. (I found it interesting that I could just enter the baggage claim area without going through security or showing a ticket.) I waited 30 minutes in line and then took a deep breath, put on my biggest smile and prepared to be patient with the agent who was in the firing line.

I told them that their system would show there was no update to my bag but that the tracking device (AirTag) in my suitcase showed it was in the airport. I stressed to her that this had happened to me before and that I had a flight to Mauritius later that night, so I really wanted to get my bag back.

She called the "baggage team" and within 30 minutes, my bag came out. I jumped up and down with joy, exited the airport, went to a laundromat to wash and dry my dirty clothes from Amsterdam, then returned to the airport a few hours later. There, I boarded my flight to Mauritius via Paris.

Total days sans bag: Three days.

Stress level: 5/10.

Oh oh, it happened again!

After a glorious week in Mauritius (with my bag this time), I checked into my Air Mauritius flight to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). From Paris, I had a separate ticket — you might see where this is going — to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I was able to interline my checked bag to the second flight, meaning I wouldn't need to pick it up in Paris and re-check it onto my flight to Frankfurt. (The interlining process usually takes about 15 minutes in my experience, but not all check-in agents know how to do it so they may need the help of another staff member.)

I landed in Paris after 10 hours in business class (Air Mauritius was great!) and successfully went through immigration and security (not sure why I had to do that again) to board my flight to Lufthansa. My stress levels were low as I sat down in my seat because my AirTag showed my suitcase was right next to the plane. However, I gave it one last look on the runway before takeoff and it still showed its location at the gate, albeit six minutes earlier. You know what's going to happen here, don't you?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (Photo by Matt Moffitt/The Points Guy)

As soon as we landed in Frankfurt, my fears were confirmed: The AirTag showed my bag was still on the ground in Paris. Luckily, Lufthansa allows you to lodge a claim online, and I did so even before I deboarded the plane. (To be honest, it was kind of nice to just get off the plane and walk straight onto a train into the city without waiting for my baggage.)

I was in Frankfurt for 48 hours. I expected my bag to arrive on my second day there — it didn't. (A week prior to this incident, on July 3, French news channel BFMTV reported that at least half of passengers departing CDG arrived at their destination without their baggage that day.) I went to Bershka and Zara to build out my Matt Moffitt Summer 2022 Delayed Baggage Replacement Clothes Collection, an exclusive collaboration with Lufthansa.

At least I got some new clothes! (Photo by Matt Moffitt/The Points Guy)

Lufthansa's online baggage system is super easy to use. I saw that my bag was still in Paris on the night before my departure back home to Austin, so I updated the delivery address to my home address. I boarded my flight to Austin via New York and opened my front door (without my bag, of course).

An hour later, I tested positive for COVID-19 (luckily with no symptoms, but that's another story). Six days after my bag had originally landed in Paris, a courier dropped it off at my front door. Thanks to my AirTag, I saw that my suitcase had enjoyed some amazing travels, bouncing between Terminals 2B, 2D and 2E in CDG, getting to know the other misplaced bags. Then it said "au revoir" and flew to Frankfurt where it spent a night eating pretzels before flying to Dallas. Unfortunately, it missed its connecting flight from Dallas, so it spent a few hours there enjoying some barbecue with new friends. When it arrived in Austin, it spent a night at the airport and then finally came home to me.

Total days sans bag: Six days.

Stress level: 3/10.

Bottom line

I actually had a great trip to Europe and Mauritius, apart from getting COVID-19 and dealing with lost baggage twice. Here is some advice I have for you for upcoming travels:

The best way to avoid your bag getting delayed or lost is to not check one at all. If you can travel just with carry-on suitcase, you're gold. If you do check bags, as the headline suggests, buy AirTags (or a similar Android-friendly tracking device). If anything, I hope I've convinced you of their value.

You'll see that in two out of three cases, my bag was misplaced when I was transferring between two carriers. If you can book your ticket on one airline — or better yet, fly nonstop — there are fewer moving parts.

Next, before you even leave home (or your accommodation if you're already on the road), put all your valuables — including important documents, keys and medication — in your carry-on. (The first time my bag was delayed, I had my car and house keys in my checked bag, as well as my backup medication. No, ma'am, no.) Remember to pack fresh underwear and socks in your carry-on — again, something I forgot to do.

If your bag is indeed misplaced, wait six hours (the general time requirement for a bag to be classified as "delayed") and then go on a shopping spree. Most credit cards that offer delayed baggage reimbursement will provide you with up to $100 a day for at least three days to spend on necessities. (I booked all three of my flights with my The Platinum Card® from American Express, which does not have a delayed baggage reimbursement benefit — lesson learned.)

Rounding things out, know that if you're traveling from or through Amsterdam, London, Paris or Frankfurt this summer, you'll want to take as many of these precautions as you can.

Finally, I can attest that therapy really does help you deal with stress and anxiety. Thank you, Dr [name redacted for privacy].

Whilst this isn't a sponsored post, if you're going to pick up some AirTags, we'll give you an air high-five (get it?) for using our affiliate links to purchase an individual AirTag or four-pack on Amazon.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more