Arriving at Edinburgh airport with my husband to find that our checked bags hadn’t made the return trip with us was not the ideal end to our otherwise dreamy Sicilian honeymoon. Also less than ideal: My husband shyly announced to me that he had put his house keys in his suitcase.
What could easily have been the cause of our first fight as a married couple turned out to be a blessing in disguise. This is because there was an Apple AirTag attached to those keys.
This happy accident allowed us to check her phone and see that her suitcase (and hopefully mine too) had arrived in London and was at that time sitting in Terminal 5 at Heathrow . Over the next three days, it provided immense comfort as we watched the AirTag move from London to Edinburgh and then across the city to our home.
Although Apple’s AirTags have proven controversial, especially when, it was a situation where they worked exactly as expected, giving us peace of mind and specific location information on our lost belongings. Without it, we would have been in the dark about where our belongings were and if they would return home.
I can’t say enough good things about the service on board our British Airways flights, but the process of reporting and retrieving our baggage through the airline’s online system was a mess. After submitting our reports, we received emails that did not include our names or tracking numbers, making it impossible to track our missing luggage. The only update came from the courier shortly before our bags were finally delivered to our front door.
The incident made me certain that I will never travel without AirTags again – as long as I have the choice to do so. But for a while this week, I was afraid that I couldn’t do it.
On Saturday, German airline Lufthansa told a customer on Twitter that it was banning AirTags and other checked baggage tracking devices. When pressed, he said: “According to ICAO guidelines, baggage trackers are subject to dangerous goods regulations. Additionally, due to their transmission function, trackers must be disabled. during the flight if they are in checked baggage and cannot be used as a result.”
Lufthansa later retracted its statement, telling CNET sister site The Points Guy: “The Lufthansa Group has conducted its own risk assessment with the result that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked baggage don’t pose a security risk. We’ve never issued a ban on devices like this.” The airline also told CNET that German aviation authorities agreed with its assessment.
There appears to be some confusion within the airline over how to interpret international aviation regulations, which are developed, but not enforced, by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
These rules specify that small portable electronic devices containing lithium batteries must be protected from inadvertent activation and must be completely turned off (not in sleep or hibernation mode) if stored in checked baggage. But it is up to national governments to interpret these regulations and transpose them into law.
The concern with lithium batteries is that they pose a fire hazard, but most state authorities and airlines still allow small CR2032 batteries used in AirTags and other trackers. This includes the US Transport Security Administration, which has explicitly confirmed that passengers can put them in their checked baggage.
The benefits of traveling with AirTags or other trackers are clearer than ever. According to the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, more than 1.4 million pieces of luggage were “mishandled” by airlines in the United States between January and June this year, compared to around 693,000 last year. same period the previous year. This summer there have been many news reports of a global lost luggage crisis.
I was lucky to get my luggage back after only a few days, but many passengers whose suitcases never appear on the conveyor belt are not so lucky. No matter how good your travel insurance is when it comes to compensation, loss can be painful and inconvenient. Knowing that your belongings can be anywhere in the world, and are probably tossed carelessly on the floor of an airport, can make you feel helpless.
AirTags cannot magically bring your bags back or guarantee that your airline will save them for you. But they can provide valuable information when automated, faceless systems fail you. They can locate the location of your luggage even when your airline declares it lost. If you have no choice but to fight the airline to get back what’s yours, you have the evidence you need.
Ideally, you won’t need it – and in an ideal world, you’d remember to transfer all your most important items into your hand luggage before you fly. But as statistics and first-hand experience show, mistakes happen all the time. Better do yourself a favor and follow your own luggage. And also make sure that at least one person in your marriage is smart enough to keep their house keys handy.