This simple trick helps ensure your suitcase arrives on the belt

By Chris C., January 4 2019
This simple trick helps ensure your suitcase arrives on the belt

This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.

It’s no secret that airlines accidentally send bags to the wrong places – or very occasionally, lose them entirely – but there’s one very easy thing you can do at check-in to give your suitcase the best chance of turning up at the other end of your journey, and it’s as easy as affixing a sticker.

Firstly, every printed baggage tag has a few barcodes: these tell automated baggage sorting systems where your bag is headed, and on the same tag in plain English, you’ll be able to spot your flight number(s), destination, and any transit points if you’re taking a connecting flight.

But here’s something you might not know – every tag is also printed with a couple of removeable stickers at the bottom, containing its own barcode and basic flight information.

These are essentially ‘backup’ barcodes, and one of them should always be detached from the main tag and stuck somewhere else on your bag, as seen here:

The idea is that if the main tag is damaged or breaks off, your suitcase will still have your journey information attached, so can be scanned by baggage sorting systems as normal and sent on its way.

Many check-in staff proactively do this for you – especially the more experienced agents who often work at premium check-in counters – but even there, I still have to ask from time to time: and if travelling from an airport with automated check-in facilities, this is definitely a DIY job.

Certainly, having your name and contact information elsewhere on the bag can also be useful if your suitcase does astray, but remembering this quick ‘sticker trick’ every time you check-in can reduce the chances of that happening, and help keep your business trip or holiday on-track.

Also read: Making your passport last longer when running short of pages

Chris C.

A former contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1104

Great tip though it is somewhat amazing how many check-in staff don't apply the smaller stickers when they are processing a bag. When the sticker is produced by check-in staff it is their responsibility to add the second sticker as the passenger cannot reasonably reach behind the counter to add the sticker.

Also remember to remove these stickers after the flight. Some self check-in systems will reject the bag when they detect other barcodes on a bag which have the potential to confuse the airport luggage systems.


British Airways - Executive Club

24 Jan 2012

Total posts 74

Actually, this is not the purpose of those stickers. The stubs at the bottom of the tag are known as bingo stickers. They are used to reconcile bags manually, in airports which do not have an electronic baggage reconciliation system, or when that technology fails.

IATA standard is to print no more than three airports per tag, so most will feature three bingos on the bottom (one for each port to use).

You'll generally be ok if you remove one of the three stickers on a single point to point journey. However, if you have a multi sector journey, removing a bingo sticker may actually lead to your bag being left behind due to a reconciliation failure.

Old bingos left on bags can even confuse sophisticated sortation systems in newer airports, sending it to a reject belt for manual processing.

Even if you do attach a bingo, many only feature the barcode number which generally cannot be accessed by airport staff after 72 hours.

To truly avoid bags being lost:
- Check in bags at least 20 minutes before check-in closure (many systems can take this long to sort and deliver bags)
- Plan sufficient time between flights to allow for transfer
- Avoid ribbons on handles which can block scanners

In the event your bag does go missing, help airport staff trace it by:
- Keeping a small front pocket unlocked with your personal details inside. External tags can come off.
- Take a photo of your bag. Accurately providing the colour, brand and style will help the system automatically match the bag.
- Note unusual and identifiable items in the contents. Everyone has white shirts.

X - Former Baggage Tracing Manager for a large airline.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

10 Nov 2015

Total posts 8

Nice one, x.

What's the reason some checkin staff then remove the bingo stickers and place on bags?


British Airways - Executive Club

24 Jan 2012

Total posts 74

It's generally inexperience. Most will have only worked at an airport with electronic reconciliation so don't understand how the bingos are used.

I recall a time when I first started and the system failed and the loading teams requested we do not remove the stickers as they needed them. The checkin staff didn't understand why and struggled to break the habit.

My tip here: checked bags quickly amass lots of these stickers from previous trips. To stop the baggage system from accidentally scanning the sticker of a previous trip and chucking a wobbly, get a thick felt-tipped market and run it through each old sticker. This is often easier than trying to remove them because, well, those stickers can really 'stick' to some bags and be hard to take off.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2219

I make it a point to remove all stickers as soon as I arrive at my destination, as I used to travel around Asia a lot on AirAsia in the noughties growing up and they used to stick their tags directly on the handle (without the loose looping proper airlines' tags use), which got really sticky if not removed within a day or two.

04 May 2018

Total posts 43

All are correct, they can be used as bingo stickers and they may confuse the system, also check in staff should attach one to a hard part of your case, leaving two for the rare bingo game!

Make sure old ones are removed and new one is on your case, main labels often break off in the system - maybe one in every few thousand ?
Then your luggage will arrive where you do. Name tag your luggage too!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 132


01 Apr 2014

Total posts 109

Some good practical tips there.

I also visually check the baggage tag the check in agent attaches before my bag shoots off down the chute, and have previously caught incorrect tags to the wrong city a few times. It appears that some of the older check in systems perhaps have the agent type in the city manually to produce tags rather than pick it up off the booking details? Some near miss examples I have caught in time include:
  • Agent confusion on a multi city itinerary that included Dublin (DUB), Dubrovnik (DBV) and Dubai (DXB).
  • Agent grabbed the tag off the shared tag printer for another agent / passenger that would have seen my bags heading to Lima in Peru via Mexico City rather than London - lucky I caught that one otherwise unlikely to have ever seen that bag again....
  • Bags in JFK tagged to Melbourne, Florida rather than Melbourne, Australia.
I have found American Airlines check in agents consistently the worst for these sort of errors.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 209

Interesting! Especially as my bag failed to arrive off the carousel two weeks ago, the airline (RJ) seems to have no information and there is no record of the bag anywhere...not overly hopeful of seeing it again! My only hope is that a Qantas Qtag was attached and someone may send it to Australia where the chip can be read

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 84

After having luggage not arriving in PER from regional NSW 5 times in 12 months I moved to carry-on only, whenever possible, including international.

'X' - I like the idea of a photo of bags and no ribbons etc for next time I put luggage under the plane.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Nov 2015

Total posts 15

Interesting! I've always peeled all three off when I've self checked in, put two in different spots on the bag, and kept one as the bag receipt.

In fact about 18 months ago a roving check in agent at the Ryan Air self checkin zoo at Stansted saw me doing this and raced over to tell me to stop and leave them all intact and attached. I begrudginly complied.

Now I know about bingo tickets, so his request doesn't seem so unreasonable! I'll always leave a couple on the tag from now on, unless I ever have the pleasure of flying Ryan Air again in which case I'll leave them all on without arguing!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Nov 2017

Total posts 13

I almost always do this!!!

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