Hold on to Your Checked-Bag Tracking Number

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Bags lined up for departure (Photo: iStockphoto/Vera Bogaerts)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 4, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, baggage, Molly Feltner.

On a recent trip flying from Nairobi to Boston, I almost missed my connecting flight in London, even though I had a 90-minute layover. The reason: I absentmindedly left my ticket envelope for my first flight in the seat-back pocket. At the transfer desk in London, I discovered that this envelope contained a sticker that was the only way my connecting airline, American, could locate and check the bag I checked with my initial airline, Virgin Atlantic. Despite having a tag on it that said BOS (Boston's airport code), my bag lay somewhere in Heathrow unclaimed, while the minutes ticked down to departure.

Just because the airlines use computerized systems to keep track of flights, passengers, and yes, even bags, doesn't mean they actually share that digital information, as I wrongly assumed. Codeshare partners and alliance members usually do share information, but in the case of American and Virgin Atlantic, which are not partners, it's left to the passengers to share baggage tracking numbers if they ever hope to see their belongings again.

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In my case, I was forced to sprint across the terminal, wait in a long line at a Virgin Atlantic desk, get a copy of my old ticket with the baggage number printout, and then sprint back to American and check back in, this time with the tracking number. Despite the limited transfer time, my bag somehow showed up in Boston. For the future, I've vowed to keep my ticket jackets with the baggage tracking numbers secure with my passport and other important documents until I get home. I'll just have to use the seat-back barf bag to bookmark the Sky Mall catalog from now on.

Do you have any advice for making sure your bags make it to their destination? Share your tips below.

 
 
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