The Luggage that Gets Unloaded First


There’s nothing worse than waiting at a baggage carousel on a vacation trip and seeing everyone’s bags except yours pass by. Wondering whether your bag has been lost in transit is not a great way to start a holiday.  And even if it does arrive in the last batch of bags off the plane, being last in the taxi queue is not a great start either.

Of course, if you’re a first class or business class passenger, or you belong to the airline’s frequent flier club, your bag will get a priority tag and should be given special treatment and unloaded first. But, that doesn’t apply to budget airlines, and doesn’t always work even on full service airlines.

So if you’re flying on a budget airline, or economy or coach on a full service airline, is there any secret to getting it unloaded first?

According to Luggage Direct, the likelihood of getting luggage unloaded first increases when it gets assigned to the last batch of luggage to be stowed in the plane’s cargo hold.

The Science Behind Luggage Loading

Luggage Direct’s observation was confirmed by Thomas Lo Sciuto, a hardworking gate agent working in a US airport. “Bags will always be loaded front to back in the bag carts, so if you check in last, your bags will be in the last cart, which will make them last on the aircraft, and the first off the aircraft at your destination,” explains Lo Sciuto.

“If your bags are first off the aircraft, they will most likely be the first on the bag carts and the first to be unloaded at the baggage claim,” Lo Sciuto added. In short, the rule in luggage handling in most airports is: Last luggage in, first luggage out.

Lo Sciuto however warns travelers that not all airports follow the same procedure. Before trying this trick and purposely delaying your luggage check-in process, it will work in your favor to first try and confirm if the airport follows the last luggage in, first luggage out procedure. If it does, then you are in for a good ride.

Timing is Everything

Just like most tricks, timing is everything. When trying to purposely delay your luggage check-in, be very careful not to linger for too long lest you miss your flight. If you notice that the line leading to the check-in counter is quite long, it is best to just fall in line earlier than risk getting left behind.

And do remember that whilst checking in bags last increases their chance of getting unloaded first, that doesn’t always happen. The luggage loading and unloading protocol described by Mr Lo Sciuto does not apply in every airport, because some have different systems of transferring the bags to and from the aircraft. But it’s safe to say that it applies in most airports.

Many would find it odd to dilly-dally and loiter in airports in the hope that their luggage gets unloaded first, and would prefer to spend their time browsing the duty free shops or relaxing over a coffee close to the boarding gate. So a lot depends on the destination to which you are traveling and how important it is for you to make a quick getaway at your destination.

The Fragile Sticker

Some travellers say that asking the check-in agent to attach a ‘Fragile’ sticker increases the chance of your luggage getting unloaded ahead of other bags. This is because bags with fragile stickers are loaded last to keep them from being crushed by the weight of hundreds of other bags.

This is true, but the downside is that many airlines then require the passenger to sign a declaration relieving the airline of any responsibility for damage to the contents of the bag because the passenger has declared the contents as fragile. And sometimes the fragile stickers fall off, or the baggage handlers don’t see them, so it’s not a fullproof method of ensuring that your bag is unloaded first.

The Cabin Bag

Of course, the only sure full-proof way to ensure that you will be one of the first passengers away at your destination airport is to pack everything into a carry-on bag. That way you don’t have to spend any time at the baggage carousel. But the downside is this only works with full-service airlines that provide a reasonable carry-on baggage allowance, so for practical purposes will usually be limited to short trips.

The other disadvantage of not having a check-in bag is that you will be limited to carrying only 100ml of liquids and won’t be able to carry any sharp objects that you would have otherwise been able to carry in your check-in bag.

Except for heads of state and other very important personalities, no one is exempted from frustratingly waiting beside the baggage carousel for his or her suitcase to finally appear. It therefore behooves every traveler to bring with them a big enough dose of patience to sustain the long wait at the baggage claim.

Please share your best tricks to be the one who gets their bag first at the airport! I am looking forward to hear from you in the comment function below, via email,on TwitterFacebook Instagram or Google+.


Leave a Reply