You Can Help Airlines Return Your Lost Bags To You

Lost baggage is not fun for anyone. For travelers, lost baggage means no clothes, no toiletries, possibly lost business materials or gifts. For airlines, lost baggage means their staff is subjected to irate travelers, a decrease is customer satisfaction and the added expense of tracking down lost bags, shipping and delivering lost bags, not to mention potentially having to reimburse a passenger for expenses.


All airline travelers know to label their checked bag, some rely entirely on an airline’s checked bag tag, the majority of travelers attach a luggage tag, some place a business card in the bag’s card slot … and these are good ways to identify your luggage … but … none of these ways help baggage handlers seeking a lost bag quickly identify and retrieve your bag.


Stand at a baggage carousel and count the number of black ballistic nylon bags you see on the conveyor belt, check and see how many bags have a red ribbon tied to the handle. Once you have watched the baggage go round and round think about the challenge a baggage handler at a major airline hub has when trying to identify and retrieve a lost bag described as a “22-inch black ballistic nylon roll-aboard.


While no one wants to check there bags, there are times checked a bag is a must, makes sense or is just easier, and while statistically the number of lost bags compared to the number of bags that arrive at their destination as scheduled is minimal, lost bags occur.


So, how can you help yourself get your bag back quickly?  Make your bag stand out in a permanent manner, ensure your description of your lost bag is clear and unmistakable.


For me, all of my bags have my name written on every side in bright yellow paint marker, along with the drawing of a cartoon fish swimming (no, I don’t recommend you draw a cartoon of a swimming fish on your bags).  On three sides of the bag, along with my name (and fish), is my phone number and email address.   Placing my name on all sides, in a bright color, that provides excellent contrast against a black bag, allows someone looking for my bag to immediately spot it, regardless of where or how the bag is stacked.


Labeling a bag clearly on one side is not effective. Bags stacked in a baggage room, on a cart, or cargo bin can be placed in any direction and blocked on any side. Take a look at a baggage cart from your aircraft window as a plane is being loaded, you can see bags go in every direction and are often face down so they don’t roll down the baggage loader on their wheels.


While all my bags are marked in flamingo pink tape, along with my name and contact info being clearly visible, I don’t rely on the pink tape to be an identification marker, other than using it as one more potential marking to catch someone’s eye while looking for my lost bag.


Some bags are fashionable, some are utility … when it comes to lost bags, even those with the most fashionable bags often wish they had opted for utility.


Below are two photos of my Mountainsmith Boarding Pass roll-aboard bag, which occasionally finds itself under the plane.


Happy Flying!




a close up of a black bag


a black bag with yellow writing on it



  1. I have a fairly unique bag, purchased from eBags. Even though is is black there is enough red on it to make it stand out. I know this isn’t smart, but I had time to kill after a flight and went to the Admirals Club to shower, even though I knew my bag would be on the belt at Terminal 8, JFK. When I went down to get my bag some 90 minutes after arrival I went to the baggage room and because of the unique design could spot it right away. My carryon is of the same design and the one time in the last 4 years my bag didn’t show I told the agent my checked bag looks just like my carry on, only larger. It showed at my hotel 4 hours later.

    I do like the idea of the bright tape. Will do that in the future!

  2. Colleen,

    I label my bags with pink tape for that reason. Try blending in after walking off with a bag wrapped in pink tape.

    Happy Flying!


  3. Take a picture of your bag with your cell phone and have it with you when you report it missing.

  4. Hi Steven,

    Do you use your Boarding Pass to carry equipment, or just clothes? Mountainsmith’s website doesn’t show the storage details on their website for this bag. . . and if you do use it for equipment, can you take a photo to display how you pack it all? Thanks!

  5. Doug,

    I use the Mountainsmith Boarding Pass as a regular roll aboard. I tend to carry my gear in a back pack or simply out on my shoulders with a belt-pouch kit. When I place gear into the Boarding Pass I use Photo Kit Cube (which was actually my brain child –, I do this when only traveling with a very basic kit, that I don’t need or want to have out, and my main focus is on packing clothing nearly, rather than doing what I normally do, which is jamming my clothing in my backpack with everything else. Another option would be using the Mountainsmith Kit Cube Traveler,, although I have not chosen to go that route at this time.

    When I use a photo roll aboard, that is a not a Pelican 1514, I generally use a now discontinued Mountainsmith Correspondent roll aboard –

    I keep intending to write about the Boarding Pass, which has become my primary roll aboard and the roll aboard bag I really love for general use, but never seem to find the time. I need to get on that!

    Happy Flying!


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