Frequent flyers and business travellers have an obvious interest in what Apple's new AirTags can do for them, especially when it comes to tracking their luggage.
That was the focus of our exclusive hands-on review last week, when we tried to see if AirTags could tell when your checked luggage lands on the baggage claim belt (they can't, although there are other ways they play well with checked bags).
But there's surprisingly high interest in another travel-centric application for these button-sized Bluetooth trackers: can an AirTag let you know if your bags have been loaded onto your flight?
It'd certainly provide a degree of reassurance, especially when there are tight connections involved.
Imagine settling in your business class seat or first class suite, pre-flight drink in hand, and seeing on your iPhone that your bag is snugly tucked in the cargo hold below you.
While we've not yet been able to test that scenario, here are some thoughts...
Could an AirTag track your bag on its way to the plane?
AirTags rely on the network of people using Apple's cloud-based Find My service, which in turn is built its iPhone, iPad and Mac software.
This is the same service you'd use if you have lost your iPhone, but it's now been updated to include the AirTags.
Any device plugged into the Find My network can automatically pick up the Bluetooth signal from a nearby AirTag and – without even knowing it – have the Air Tag's location privately relayed back to its owner.
So in theory, once your bags are ready to be sent to your plane, if the baggage truck driver and baggage loaders have iPhones, those should (again, in theory) detect the AirTag on your luggage and update its position on your own Find My app.
But if this would also depend on if your bag is inside a large metal container, or it's in the middle of a mass of bags, which in both cases could reduce the range of the AirTag's already low-power Bluetooth signal.
However, if that did work, at least you'd be able to see on the Find My map that your bag was last seen somewhere on the tarmac, which would afford some measure of confidence (assuming it was then loaded onto the correct flight).
Could an AirTag track your bag on the plane itself?
Let's assume your bag makes it onto your flight. Could the AirTag's presence be detected by the iPhones, iPads and MacBooks of other passengers, and that information passed on to you?
This is far less likely. First up, your airborne search party would need to have Bluetooth enabled on their devices, which airlines warn against during flight, and be online so that data could be sent back to Apple and shared on the Find My network.
You'd also need to have your device online to receive the live location.
There are also physical factors which would prevent the AirTag's Bluetooth signal from getting out in the first place – primarily the floor between the passenger level and the cargo hold – so for now, we'd tamp down expectations of your AirTagged luggage letting you know it's on your flight.
It would make more sense for airlines to embrace the bag-tracking technology they already have in place, and send an alert through their own app to confirm that your bags have been loaded onto your flight, as a way of providing another feel-good 'touch point' which airlines are always banging on about.
Affixing your AirTag to checked luggage
As a final note on the topic of AirTagged bags, several people have asked about the AirTag shown dangling from our luggage during the tests.
This is certainly not recommended, but we had to illustrate the AirTag 'in action'.
There's simply too much risk of an AirTag strap being caught in the complex and unforgiving machinery of the airport's baggage sorting system and conveyer belt, and becoming a ritual sacrifice to the God of Luggage.
We'd strongly urge AirTaggers to either get a very very short strap or a carabiner-style clip – to slip the AirTag inside their usual bag tag with their address and contact details – or, for maximum safety, to stow it in one of the bag's internal pockets.
During our airport tests, having the AirTag on this external strap or in an inside pocket made no discernible difference to range-finding when the bag was stationary.
But collecting your bag at the carousel, only to find your expensive AirTag has been torn off, is not going to put you in a good mood.