Find out what happens to your baggage once you check-in. Answer questions such as where does it go and how is it tracked?
When you check-in at the airport for your flight, you will be able to check-in your hold luggage too. This is baggage that will be stored in the underneath part of the plane, so you will not be able to access it during your flight.
When you check-in, you will be asked to weigh your suitcase or bag, and asked to attach a label to it which will have a specific ID and flight information. You are often given a sticker which is usually attached to your passport with details of your baggage so that if it gets lost, you will have records of its details. The check-in staff will often do these things for you.
If you have already checked-in online for your flight, you will be able to do the same as above. However, you will need to head to the bag drop off point instead of the check-in desk, unless otherwise instructed. At the baggage drop off point, you will be instructed to attach a luggage ID label and place it on the conveyor belt where it will be weighed and taken away to be processed.
After check-in, you will see your suitcase go off on a conveyor belt. Depending on the airport, they will often go off to the sorting office, where either robots or staff will sort them to go off to the right plane, or alternatively be sorted and stored ready for your flight at a later time.
During this journey, your bags will be screened at a security checkpoint. This process is much like the one that you can see when you and your hand luggage go through security, where bags are scanned with an X-Ray machine or CT scanner and sometimes are inspected if deemed suspicious or requiring further examination.
Once cleared, your baggage will then be taken to the plane ready for loading onto the aircraft. This is done by airport ramp agents who control the baggage movement and ensure that your bags get on the right plane. They are then loaded onto carts which then transport the luggage to the plane, where they are loaded onto the plane.
Similarly, after landing at your destination, they are then unloaded from the plane and transported to the terminal where they are unloaded onto the baggage reclaim conveyor belts, where you can collect them.
If you have purchased a connecting flight, you will find that most often, your checked baggage will be taken care of, and will be moved from your first plane to your second plane. If you are not asked at check-in, you should check that they will check your luggage through to your last stop. This means that when you land after your first flight, you will not need to wait for your bag and check it in again, instead only needing to find your gate for your next flight. If your connecting flight airline is not in an interline agreement with your first airline, you may have to collect your baggage after the first leg of your journey and check it in again. You will know if you are on an interline flight or not at the original check-in - if you have checked in for just the first leg or the whole flight.
If you have a domestic layover, your bag will usually get taken off the first leg of your journey, and dealt with by the airline so that it is tagged and transported to your end destination. However, flying with an international layover is a bit different. This varies depending on the airport, airline and country where your layover is. If you have flown from outside the US or Canada, with a layover in the US or Canada, you will most often have to collect and recheck your luggage. If you have a layover in another country, if your airlines are part of a codeshare or interline agreement, you will most often get them transferred to your end destination for you.
If you miss your connecting flight due to the first leg of your journey being delayed, your baggage will most often miss the connecting flight too. However, if you miss the connecting flight through your own fault, your bag will probably already be on the plane and end up at the destination without you. Once it arrives, it will usually be taken off the baggage reclaim carousel and stored whilst it waits for you to catch up with it.
There are so many bags that get processed by airports every day, that sometimes it is inevitable that some bags may get misplaced. Sometimes you will arrive at your destinations and your bags won't be there. However, if you ensure that you have a tag with your personal contact details on the outside and inside of your case, you will have much greater chances of reuniting with it.
Yes, once you check them in and they go off on the conveyor belt, your baggage will be screened by an X-Ray machine and also often with chemical sniffers. If there is any doubt or something suspicious about your bag, a member of security personnel will inspect it by hand. If they cannot get into your lock with a master key, they may have to open it with other means, but it will be wrapped up and secured after inspection.
Find out how to add baggage at the time of booking flights, but also after making the booking here.