How to Get Your Luggage First at Baggage Claim
Ken Seet/Corbis/VCG No one wants to be kept waiting at baggage claim.
What you should know about check-in times, baggage handling, elite status, and more.
If you’re trying to breeze through the airport, then don’t check a bag. That’s simple. But sometimes, you can’t help it, and even the savviest travelers are left waiting for their suitcases to flop onto the carousel at baggage claim. For decades, people have wondered how to get their luggage off that return belt first. But is there really any way to do it?
According to Emily McNutt, associate editor of The Points Guy, a website dedicated to points, miles, and travel tips, there’s no reliable way to game the system. While some frequent travelers swear the timing of check-in matters, arguing that earlier or later gets bags out of the cargo hold first, loading and unloading systems vary by aircraft, airline, and baggage handling teams. Some airplanes are loaded using large crates of bags, which bag handlers balance in the plane’s belly to ensure even distribution, while others are stored loosely in the cargo hold as individual pieces. Screening by the Transportation Security Administration also throws off the timing theory, as it can slow a bag’s journey to the plane with a security stop en route.
Since passengers don’t know the behind-the-scenes process their bags will go through on a given flight, it’s nearly impossible to manipulate the system for a more expeditious result. There are, however, exceptions—if you’re willing to pay for them.
Customers with elite status on an airline should automatically receive priority baggage handling, which includes being among the first suitcases to arrive at baggage claim. McNutt suggests making sure the ticket agent knows you’ve got status.
“When you are dropping your bag off with the ticket agent, make sure you can visibly see the tag on there,” McNutt says. “As long as your frequent flier number is associated with your flight booking, they will be able to tell.”
Additionally, even if you don’t have elite status, booking a seat in first or business class means you not only get better onboard amenities, but conveniences like priority baggage handling, too. But if you can’t afford premium, and can’t go carry-on, the good news is that airlines are improving their technology to help alleviate passenger bag stress. Qatar Airways’ “Track My Bags” feature lets you see if your bag is at check-in, in transfer, or arriving at your destination; Delta Air Lines introduced new baggage tracking technology in its app last year.
“When your plane rolls up to the gate, you can see where your bag is and monitor where it goes in the airport, and get an estimated time for when it will arrive at the baggage claim,” McNutt says.
So while there’s no silver bullet to beating the baggage carousel, if you know what you’re doing (and can afford it), you’ll at least be able to speed things up the next time you have to check a bag.
Reposted from Conde Nast Traveler