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Out of the post-pandemic travel chaos, a hero has emerged.

Unassuming and undercover, this hero has spent much of the past year traveling the globe, stepping in when airlines mess up to save people’s precious vacations.

Its name? Well, it goes by a few. To you, it may be Tile, Chipolo, Pebblebee or – its best-known incarnation – AirTag. That’s right: compact, portable and potentially snatching your perfect vacation from the jaws of lost luggage disaster, the travel accessory of the moment is the humble luggage tracker.

We’ve seen it month after month, after airlines and airports laying off staff led to travel chaos throughout 2022. Not enough baggage handlers and exploding numbers of travelers meant bags not being loaded onto planes, bags not being taken fast enough off planes for Luggage storage Coupon ., unattended bags piling up by the thousands in airports – and many of them lost.

The bag mishandling rate was up 74.7% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to data from SITA, which offers various IT solutions (including baggage tracking) for the aviation industry. Out of every 1,000 bags to take to the skies, 7.6 were lost last year, compared to 4.35 per 1,000 in 2021 and 5.6 per 1,000 in 2019.

Bags for international flights are eight times as likely to be mishandled than those on domestic flights, due to the likelihood of them being transferred (connections account for nearly half the incidents). However, you don’t have to have a complex itinerary for the airline to lose your bag – a whopping 17% of mishandled bags in 2022 were simply never loaded onto the plane in the first place.

“The sudden surge in travel has led to increased disruptions that are compounded by a shortage of skilled staff,” Thomas Romig, vice president for safety, security and operations of the Airports Council International (ACI) wrote in a report this year for SITA.

And 2023 could be even worse, according to Rory Boland, editor of UK-based consumer magazine Which? Travel.

“There remain significant problems with lost luggage this year, and this is likely to be worse still in the peak travel period this summer. That’s not just the odd bag going missing, but planes taking off with no luggage because staff shortages meant it wasn’t possible to load them in time,” he warns.

If losing a bag doesn’t sound like the worst thing that could happen on vacation, that probably means you haven’t ever lost one. “If you’ve lost a bag once you’re probably scarred for life,” says tech writer Kate Bevan, to whom it’s happened twice.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a call or an email saying your missing bag has been located. If you’re not, you’ll be waiting indefinitely, always wondering what happened to that piece of luggage.

But if you put a tracking device inside it, as more and more people are finding, you can tell the airline where it is.

And while knowing where it is doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it back, you have more of a fighting chance.

“For me, tracking devices are essential because they help you help the airline find your luggage faster, but also offer peace of mind that you will get your belongings back at some stage,” says Boland.

A PowerPoint presentation to recover his bag

Jai Rawat was traveling home from London Heathrow to San Francisco in January when his bag went missing. Two days later, his airline, Virgin Atlantic, emailed to say that the bag had been located and would be returned to him “soon.”

Yet nine days after his flight, his AirTag was still showing at Heathrow.

Rawat – CEO of Zinrelo, which powers loyalty programs for brands – sent screenshots of its location to no avail. Virgin said that staff were “trying to locate the bag” – despite him showing them exactly where it was.

In desperation, after 34 days, he created a PowerPoint presentation, entitled “Helpful hints to find my suitcase.”

The six-page document gave a detailed description of the bag, and included maps, satellite photos, Google Streetview screenshots and an annotated map of Heathrow Terminal 4, marking the exact building which he deduced the bag was in.

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