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I'm a frequent flyer, I'm ALWAYS booking non-stop flights because I'm terrified of my luggage not being transferred to the correct plane and getting lost. This happened to almost every person I know. This summer I'm planning a trip and price for non-stop flights are just unreasonable (£1800 instead of £700). Are there any tips how to minimize this from happening?

I will be travelling with Emirates airlines

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    Emirates is a remarkable airline. Losing your luggage while with them should be the least of your worries. – The Last Word Feb 22 '18 at 16:24
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    Have most people you know actually lost their luggage, or merely had them delayed? I've had suitcases not get to the destination on time, but I don't think I've ever had any luggage get lost entirely (or even had anything inside them removed), even internationally. And are you putting the wrong things in your luggage? It's for clothes, not laptops or passports or jewelry. If my suitcase got lost I would be annoyed (and demand compensation), not terrified. Put all your important stuff (that would ruin your life if lost) along with a few essential clothes you can wash in your carry-on. – Mehrdad Feb 23 '18 at 1:12
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    Are we assuming you're going to check a bag? Or is a possible answer to just pack everything you really need in a carry on sized bag? – BruceWayne Feb 23 '18 at 6:01
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    "This happened to almost every person I know" only them, or also the other passengers? Because if it's compared to the rest of the passengers on the same plane, then it's still a small percentage (I'm afraid you're a victim of confirmation bias) – Andrew T. Feb 23 '18 at 11:34
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    For what it's worth, I had my luggage "lost" (sent to wrong destination) on direct flights -- twice. – mustaccio Feb 23 '18 at 13:40
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You can never guarantee anything, but I have only had bags delayed at a transfer once (twice more I have had bags delayed, but at least one of the times the bag simply failed to make the plane, and in the other it didn't make a connection because of weight issues, not because it was a connection per se).

The best advice I can give? Don't book flights with tight connections. Give yourself plenty of time between flights so that if your inbound flight at a connection is delayed, they still have time to get your bags to the outbound flight. My situation involved a 75-minute connection turning into a 15-minute connection because of flight delays. We made our connecting flight, but our bags were delayed until the next day.

One other thing you can do: bring enough things in your carry-on bag so that you won't mind if your bag is delayed. When we have more than one checked bag, we distribute things in both bags so that if one bag didn't show up, we'd still be alright with what's in the other bag. If all your underwear is in one bag, Murphy's law will make it that bag. :)

Finally, remember that most hotels can give you emergency toiletries, and in many cases, it's not terribly inconvenient to run to a nearby store to buy what you need. In our situation our San Diego hotel was near a Target store, so we drove our rental car there, bought some t-shirts, socks, underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., and were fine. Eventually we'd need all these things anyway.

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    As a data-point, I flew quite regularly through ORY (Paris Orly) and realized after a couple of baggage delays that it happened every time my connection was 45min or shorter. Afterwards, instead of minimizing flight time, I made sure to pick a set of flights with ~1h connection time and never had the issue again. And of course, I learned to pack underwear and night-gear in my carry-on :) – Matthieu M. Feb 23 '18 at 7:39
  • What would you call tight connections? Is 2 h 30 mins a tight one? – Vax Feb 23 '18 at 8:39
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    @Vax, no 2h30 is not tight at all, even for the busiest airports. As Matthieu said: consider it "tight" if the transfer time is below 1 hour. – Hoki Feb 23 '18 at 9:36
  • @Hoki 2.5 hours can be slightly tight if you have to clear customs and immigration at that airport, but even then it's not too terrible. – Jim MacKenzie Feb 23 '18 at 14:52
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    @JimMacKenzie - but bags don't have to clear customs and immigration the way you do. – CalvT Feb 23 '18 at 14:55
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Never put anything in your luggage you can not live without, if you need to take something that is very important for you, keep it in your carry on.

As the other answers state, make sure you have enough time between flights but not too much. One to five hours are the numbers I have seen reported on this site more than once. If your layover is long, say 8 hours or more, your best bet may be to not check it through.

The rest of this answer is more how to lower the impact of luggage that does not make the same flight you do. And on how to get it returned to you when it does miss the flight.

Have one set of clean clothes (from the skin out) in your hand luggage or at least clean underwear, so that if your luggage is late, you can clean up with your own clothes.
When luggage goes missing, mostly it is just delayed and may follow you to your final destination the next day or, (depending on the airline and airport) can be collected the next day. Having some clothes makes you will not be caught out.

Make sure you have your contact details on and in the case, so that you can be contacted when they find the case without the flight labels. If you can be reached by phone while on holiday, put your phone number (in international format, so with the + and your country code) as the top line. For the address, either put in your temporary address on the way out and your home address on the way home.
Or, if you have someone near home who will be home while your house is empty, their address and phone number.
There are many different kinds of suitcase labels available, (and you can even make your own if you can not find anything.)
And put the information inside your case.

And be sure to report your luggage missing, with the address and telephone number you can be reached.
Ask the staff of the lost luggage office what to do and what you get for not having your luggage right there. Some people report having been given nice amount of money to buy emergency supplies. (Others have reported not getting anything, so you will have to wait and see.)

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Nothing really. The probability baggage missing a connection diminishes very slightly though if you:

  1. Do not have tight connections. Anything less than 45 mins is tight but it many modern airports the probability is higher that you miss the connection than your luggage.
  2. You fly the different legs on the same airline. In some airports this makes no difference but using different airlines can be more risky especially with tight connections.

Nowadays I find that missed connection means the baggage is much more often delayed than lost, so if you stay at your arrival city at least one day before heading on a tour or transport to another city, the chances are that your luggage will be with you shortly. Remember to have all essential items with you in your carry on, not just in case your luggage gets delayed but also so that you have access to items you need in case your flight takes an additional stop due to technical reasons, weather or even if your connecting flight is delayed until the next day.

  • For #1, Amsterdam Schiphol lost my luggage twice with 1.5h connections. They told me it happens almost every time they don't have >2h between connections. So if you're flying via Schiphol plan 3h to account for delays and bad luggage handling. They did send me the luggage afterwards. I really have a 100% loss rate for flights <=1.5h in Schiphol as these were the only two flights I had with such a "tight" connection. – CodeMonkey Feb 23 '18 at 8:22
  • @CodeMonkey - That is pretty bad. I have been to that airport but never connected through it. So far missed luggage connections for me have been limited to much shorter connections, especially if they are between different terminals. – Itai Feb 23 '18 at 14:53
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My tip is to not worry too much, and to be careful to avoid valuables in the checked baggage (as the airlines officially recommend).

As opposed to the OP, I rarely travel with less than two connections. Over the last 15 years, I have traveled more than 50 long haul trips with multiple connections, often over multiple airlines, sometimes from multiple alliances in the same trip; some 20 airlines in total. In some family trips, I even checked 15 bags over two connections. My tally, over these hundreds of flights and hundreds of bag checked is as follows:

  • One time, I was told during my third flight by the airline that some bags would not make it. They were delivered the next day, as promised.

  • Two times one of many bags was not present, and in both cases it was delivered to me the next day; one of these cases, the bag had lost a handle and with it its tag. Without the tag and with the description "black bag without handles" the bag was delivered to me.

  • One time a playpen was lost and never delivered. In retrospect, the tag was put on a very weak handle, so it likely fell off. My credit card insurance happily paid for the lost item, after a crappy airline declined to pay for it.

The other hundreds of times, my bags made it without issue.

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Are there any tips how to minimize this from happening?

Unless you're asking this as a member of the Operations team of an airline, there's not much you can do to minimize the risk of lost luggage. That being said, statistics are generally in your favour:

From the data available here which is sourced from Air Travel Consumer Report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 0.021% of luggage is never found

So you'd have to fly 3300 times before you'd reach a 50% chance of losing a bag (.99979x = 0.5). Suffice to say most of us won't be losing a bag any time soon.

  • +1 for doing the probability calculation correctly :) – Sneftel Feb 23 '18 at 12:52
  • @Sneftel Except that the calculation is good only if he travels with exactly one piece of luggage each time - and of course the events are independent :) – Hagen von Eitzen Feb 23 '18 at 15:54
  • @HagenvonEitzen Good point... seems likely that the probability of losing luggage varies by airline, and therefore by traveler. JonathanReez, you got some 'splaining to do! – Sneftel Feb 23 '18 at 16:38
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Two additional points on outlier cases...

  1. Check the tags. Once, leaving a bicycle at the "oversized bag" ramp, a smart operator asked me why the bike's tag said "PHX" while the panniers said "PDX". A quick trip back to the checkin desk sorted that out. Doesn't happen often, but worth checking.
  2. Don't pack anything that might be even remotely startling to The Authorities. Returning from Phoenix, AZ (PHX) one suitcase contained a tourist memento of a particularly American pastime - a folded but slightly holed sheet of paper with an outline of a human torso. That suitcase was inexplicably missing on arrival, but turned up a day or so later. I can only guess the image appeared faintly on X-ray, and somebody decided they wanted to look at it. I am probably on file somewhere, but at least the airline paid for delivery to my home.
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Options:

  • Don't check your luggage through to your final destination. This means at the transit point(s) you will need to:

    • collect your baggage from the baggage claim
    • go through customs and immigration
    • check your baggage to the final destination
    • return through security and immigration.
  • Don't worry about it. Take a spare pair of pants, and perhaps a tee-shirt in your carry-on luggage, and just wait for the airline to deliver you baggage to you.

The first option is much simpler if you can arrange to spend a couple of days at your transit point.

  • In the US this seems like a poor choice. Baggage claim is outside the secure area so you'd have to go through security screening again. – MaxW Feb 23 '18 at 3:29
  • In Europe as well, at least in all airports I have ever been. – Willeke Feb 23 '18 at 14:34
  • @MaxW : Actually, I think baggage claim in inside the secure area, but once you have collected your bag, the only exit is through customs, which takes you out of the secure area. Which is why I said "return through security and immigration" – Martin Bonner Feb 23 '18 at 16:43
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A direct flight may reduce the likelihood of your luggage not being there when you arrive, but it won't eliminate it. I've taken direct flights only to find out that my luggage was not put on the same plane. The plane had reached capacity before all the luggage could be loaded (at least that was their explanation), so they sent my luggage along with a later flight. That's happened twice, and the delay ranged from a couple hours to a couple days.

Fortunately for me, it was always on my journey home, and all I had to do was wait until they delivered the missing luggage to my home. It would have been a lot more inconvenient if it had been at my destination.

In fact, I believe I've never had an issue with luggage on trips that required transferring.

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