Be the 1st to Get Your Luggage at Baggage Claim

Be the 1st to Get Your Luggage at Baggage Claim


What you should know about check-in times, baggage handling, elite status, and more.

 Want to breeze through the airport, then do not check a bag, it is that simple.

Sometimes, there is no way around it, and even the savviest travelers are left waiting for their suitcases to drop onto the carousel at baggage claim.

For year and years, people have wondered how to get their luggage off that return belt 1st.

The Big Q: Is there any way to do it?

The Big A: According to Emily McNutt, associate editor of The Points Guy, a website dedicated to points, miles, and travel tips, there really is 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 1st, 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 (TSA) 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 exceptions if you are willing to pay for them.

Customers with Elite status on an airline should automatically receive priority baggage handling, which includes being among the 1st suitcases to arrive at baggage claim. Ms. McNutt suggests making sure the ticket agent knows you have status.

“When you are dropping your bag off with the ticket agent, make sure you can visibly see the tag on there,” she says. “As long as your frequent flier number is associated with your flight booking, they will be able to tell.”

Also, even if you do not have Elite status, booking a seat in 1st or business class means you not only get better on-board amenities, but conveniences like priority baggage handling, too.

If you cannot afford premium, and cannot go carry-on, the good news is that airlines are improving their technology to help alleviate passenger bag stress.

Qatar Airways’ (a Private company) “Track My Bags” feature lets you see if your bag is at check-in, in transfer, or arriving at your destination.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) 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,” Ms. McNutt says.

So while there is no silver bullet to beating the baggage carousel, if you know what you are doing and can afford it, you will at least be able to speed things up the next time you have to check a bag.

Have a terrific week.

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