/ Travel & Leisure

Has your carry-on bag ever gone missing?

carry-on luggage

Recent Which? research has found that passengers who are unexpectedly made to put their hand luggage in the hold when at the gate, risk leaving valuable, uninsured items in an unsecured bag. But what if your bag goes missing when it’s in the cabin?

I frequently fly between Dublin and London, and hate queuing up to board.

This means I rarely find a space for my carry-on bag in the cabin’s overhead lockers and, if I haven’t volunteered for it to go in the hold, will have to store it far away from my seat.

True to form, on an Aer Lingus flight back to Heathrow a couple of years ago, I was one of the last to board.

The seat that had been allocated to me was by the window in the last row.

When my bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead lockers nearby, a crew member took it and stored it further up the plane.

When I went to track down my bag on landing, I realised that it, along with everyone else, had gone.

The crew helped me to look for it, but it was nowhere to be found.

Eager to not delay the next departure, the head crew member told me that the best thing to do was to speak to the desk staff in the airport.

On the ground

In the terminal, I explained the situation to the desk staff. However, they informed me that I should have stayed on the plane as there was nothing they could do but take my number and call me if my bag turned up.

Frustrated, I left the airport, thankful that my keys, phone and wallet were all in my handbag.

Later that night, I received a call from Dublin Airport – the bag had been on the plane the entire time and they’d flown it back to Dublin!

They then told me that, according to their cabin baggage terms, it was my responsibility to get the bag from Dublin to London.

Outraged, I set out to challenge the terms.

Getting it sorted

After many long conversations (and several tweets), the airline’s customer service team agreed that, in this case, I couldn’t be considered responsible for the bag as its crew had removed it from my possession.

As a goodwill gesture (and presumably to get rid of me), they agreed to put my bag on a plane back to London and have it delivered to me by Heathrow’s Lost Baggage team.

Holding out for the hold

Following that experience, I started agreeing to have my bag put in the hold if I was asked at the gate.

I figured it was safer because I had hold baggage rights.

Not so. Which? Travel research shows that if any valuables you put in the hold at the gate get lost, damaged or stolen (even if you were among the one in ten in our survey who was forced to by the crew), many airlines state in their T&Cs that they won’t compensate you for your loss.

Not only that, but your travel insurance might not cover it either.

I’m flying back to Dublin this week and I’ll be making sure I take my bag on board with me.


Whenever I am asked by gate staff to give up my hand baggage to be put in the hold, I always refuse. Even British Airways at LCY tried to do this with my maximum size 56x45x25cm case. Even after his colleague pointed out to him that I was in business class (which always has plenty of space for everyone’s hand baggage), the guy still wanted me to give it up. I refused and he eventually shut up. I feel that sometimes gate staff try this because they have nothing better to do.

I have been asked but never made to .But have done as asked at times when I had no need to get away from the destination airport quickly

Kieren says:
24 February 2017

This is always going to be an issue until the hand baggage policy is changed. The gate staff are only following airline guidelines and they are also frustrated with this on going issue. Airlines want to cram in more seats but the overhead locker space remains the same. Most delays are caused due to hand baggage compliance issues. If airlines provided say a free of charge 10kg check in baggage allowance and restrict hand baggage size this would help. After all they still need to employ ground crew to load bags whether they have to load 10 bags or 100 bags makes no difference. The ground crew are only doing what the airline wants. Oh and don’t start on health and safety.

Kieren, you are totally mistaken on two points:
1. You say that “the gate staff are only following airline guidelines“. This is not true. Very often gate staff ask passengers to give up compliant hand baggage to go in the hold because the flight is full. My above story is an example.
2. You say that “If airlines provided say a free of charge 10kg check in baggage allowance” and “they still need to employ ground crew to load bags whether they have to load 10 bags or 100 bags makes no difference“. This is not true. Airlines typically have to pay airports or subcontractors for baggage handling per item, not based on overall weight. Therefore it makes a huge difference if it’s 10 bags or 100 bags.

On a BA flight to and from Barcelona last weekend we were asked allow them to put our bags in the hold as the flight was full and not enough room for all bags. We refused and were told they might “have to insist if there was no room” . Some passengers did give them their bags. We had no problems in stowing our bags in the overhead lockers even though we were seated near the back. I saw at least 3 empty seats near us.

Airlines should get together and agree what is or what is not allowed. Different size bags, differing weight allowances etc all make for confusion, I use several different airlines and I often have to search the small print to see what is acceptable.

If you check in at the desk (rather than on line) you can be told your cabin bags are ok, then having gone through to departures, you are in a large shopping centre ! No wonder passengers arrive at the gate overloaded.

I agree, MM.The problem is that there is so little control over the conformity of carry-on luggage to the airline’s regulations. Personally I don’t see the objection to small suitcases going in the cargo hold leaving the lockers just for flight bags containing personal necessities and documents. This would cut down on the security clearance procedures as well. Good airports like Barcelona seem to be capable of getting the luggage out of the hold and into the baggage reclaim area sooner than the passengers get there.

As a matter of interest, has BA reduced its cabin luggage allowance? – It used to allow one small case or bag to go in the overhead locker plus an additional bag to go under the seat in front.