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To check luggage or not to check luggage: That is the question many travelers face. We all know that traveling with carry-on only comes with a multitude of benefits: you don’t have to wait around at baggage claim, hoping your bag appears, you don’t have to fear losing your bag or having it returned to you mangled, you always have all your stuff with you if you need to change flights or simply grab something from your bag, it’s easier to get around and there are no checked baggage fees (unless you’re flying a low-fare carrier like Frontier Airlines, which charges for overhead bin space). RELATED: Flying Spirit, Frontier or Allegiant Airlines? This is the Bag You Need So You Don’t Get Charged Extra

My husband and I used to travel with carry-on only, whether for a quick weekend getaway or a month-long trip to the other side of the world. We each had our packing strategies finely tuned and could whiz through airports all over the world quickly and with ease.

Those days are long gone. We now travel with two little kids and large suitcases stuffed with all the things they need. Which means that every time we travel, we have to check our bags and wait around at baggage claim (which once took 90 minutes following a late night arrival on Air Canada at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport). We have to hope our luggage actually makes it to our destination (once it didn’t and my husband had to make a late-night visit to a pharmacy for some essentials for our baby). We have to hope our suitcase doesn’t get damaged along the way (our suitcases have come out broken, cracked and missing a wheel). Basically, checking a bag means hoping that all kinds of things don’t wrong. RELATED: An Airline Executive’s Number One Tip for Avoiding Lost Luggage When You Fly

When you check a bag, you want to know that it’s being well taken care of but we’ve seen plenty of evidence that that’s not always the case, like this video of baggage handlers violently slamming bags down onto the conveyor belt. Of course, accidents happen, too, like the time a passenger flying Delta Air Lines / Air France had their bag returned to them completely mangled.

Bottom line: When you check a bag, you should assume it’s being handled pretty roughly and you should pack accordingly and make sure you’re traveling with sturdy luggage, preferably hard-sided suitcases as opposed to soft-sided fabric suitcases.

And when it comes to the care and safety of your bag, you may be surprised by the role stickers play. Stickers? Yep, all those stickers.

For instance, when you check a bag, the check-in agent will put a small sticker on your suitcase with a barcode that gets scanned and then directs your bag to the correct airplane. If you don’t remove old stickers from previous flights, the wrong barcode could get scanned, sending your bag to the wrong place where it ultimately may get lost.

Lost bags are obviously a concern but so are damaged bags. One way to give your bag a leg up with baggage handlers is to place a “Fragile” sticker on your suitcase, which lets them know to be careful with bag because of its contents.

Of course, this is no guarantee that the baggage handlers will be any more gentle with your bag – they have a hard job working quickly, lifting heavy bags and making sure the right bags get on the right planes. Have you seen the video of one baggage handler loading suitcases into the underbelly of an aircraft? It’s like a game of Tetris and is a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at your bag’s journey.

But a ‘Fragile’ sticker may help. Back in 2017, Condé Nast Traveler interviewed a baggage handler named Zack who said, “Of course we see fragile tags… but if the bag has a fragile tag that looks old or is from a different airline, then it’s as good as expired. Obviously, we’re looking for tags or stickers issued by our airline and located on the handle, near the checked tag. If there’s no current, valid tag, then it’s like any other bag; if the tags are old or from another airline, then they can be confusing. Worst-case scenario is the bag suffers a fate more terrible than damage: loss.”

Zack makes two great points here. One is that the ‘Fragile’ sticker should be new, indicating that it’s been placed on the bag because of the bag’s current contents and that it’s not left over from a previous flight.

And secondly, he reminds travelers to remove all old stickers. As discussed above (and in this article we recently wrote on the topic), old stickers can confuse the computers that scan bags on their way to the aircraft.

So, when you’re checking your bag in, ask the agent to place a ‘Fragile’ sticker on your suitcase. While some people feel that baggage handlers won’t notice the sticker and your bag won’t get any VIP treatment, it certainly can’t hurt. And according to The Sun, “picking up a free “fragile” sticker from airport staff and slapping it on your bag can allegedly speed up your wait time. Often the fragile tagged luggage goes into the plane last and as a result, it comes onto the belt first.”

It’s certainly worth a try and you can also arrive to the airport already prepared by using your own ‘Fragile’ stickers, which you can purchase here on Amazon. Alternatively, you can use a luggage tag to mark your bag as fragile. These brightly colored tags are hard to miss and say, in large letters, Fragile – Handle With Care.


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15 Comments On "A Simple Tip For Making Sure Your Checked Luggage Gets VIP Treatment"
  1. David|

    I’m not convinced that hard-sided luggage is more secure than soft-sided. A plastic shell may prevent some compression, but most forms of damage that will mangle a soft bag will likely do the same to a hard-sider. Also, someone who is intent on cutting into a bag can do so to any bag with a sharp blade — unless it’s aluminum.

  2. FlyGal|

    From my perspective as an airline employee, I will say that the best bags to travel with are good quality, hard sided roller bags.
    To your point, a “fragile” tag may alert the ramp agents to put your bag onto the top of the pile when loading the cargo hold, but NOT if the bag is heavy. Most often, heavy bags are loaded 1st, and are on the bottom of the bag pile in the cargo hold. A word to the wise, remember how many people (besides yourself) will be lifting the bag, so try to stay under the airlines stated weight limits. And, to avoid damage to your bags, dont over-pack them, check in early (BONUS) Always make sure you put your name and contact information on an exterior sticker or bag tag as well as inside the bag (I tape my business card to the inside of the bag in a very conspicuous place). This will ensure that, if your bag gets mis-routed you can be contacted and reunited with your bag quickly.

  3. David G|

    It’s very secure than soft sides for sure. I have taken a lot of liquor in hard sides without any incident but the soft sideed bags always end up destroying the bottles.

  4. Steve-YYZ|

    Such bovine feces. Taking off old tags, barcodes, and routing tags is fine. But suggesting everyone puts “Fragile” stickers on your bags is nonsense. Can you imagine if everyone starts following yout “tip”? An airplane cargo hold full of fragile bags which means that none of them would be treated as fragile. A case of too much crying wolf.

  5. Ccc|

    Ha. If you want them to throw it extra hard, put a fragile sticker on it.

  6. Kevin|

    Get a pelican I know 15 year in airline . Can’t break a pelican . International when they pack the cans and we open them they fall out just how the plane moves land and turbulence . It gets moved around . Pelican hard case stays dry and they can bang it all the want . Just cost a lot more than regular luggage .

  7. John Ebert|

    For a good sixty years I have been flying around our DEAR WORLD (Broadway Musical with Angela Lansbury) as THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (Classical Opera of Richard Wagner) and I have to say with hardly a hitch !!!!!!!

  8. Mostafa|

    Good job. Teach people to lie and get away with it. Soon every piece of luggage will have a ‘fragile’ tag on it and no baggage handler would give a damn thing to these tags.

  9. Claude Allen|

    I threw baggage as a baggage handler / fleet service clerk for 30 years. a fragile tag is no more than a challenge to a baggage handler, and not in your favor. that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, don’t put a fragile tag on your luggage

  10. Anonymous|

    When flying please do the following even if you don’t check your bag. Sometimes overhead compartments are full and you might have to check your bags.
    1…put your name , phone number and itinerary in a zipper part of your bag. If it doesn’t have a zipper put inside you bag and fill out those identity tags that often comes with a suitcase. If the bag tag comes off that piece of paper will help get your your bag to you.
    2…NEVER pack your medicine in your bag. If flight is delayed or flight canceled you won’t have the medication you need. Get a small backpack just for your medication, especially if you take alot. This ensures your medication is always with you.

    3….If your suitcase is already damaged, has broken handles, wheels etc. Please remember these part sometimes have screws in them and can cause harm

    4…All bags have a limit to what they will hold. If it’s too heavy handles break, wheels fall off etc. Over stuffed bags the zippers will come apart, and not stay upright if it has wheels.

  11. Katrina|

    Yall must not know the process very well, and hard cases are some of the worst cases to carry.Look I’m a airline crew member. Its the brand that matters, we only buy certain brands that give us warranties on our luggage. If you ever notice all our suitcases look the same. And if you ever paid attention to us walking through the airport you would notice none of use carry hardcases. Nothing in this article is valid. It doesn’t matter what sticker you put on your stuff. The cargo area is just open space that gets packed with luggage. Things are stacked on top of each other so they fit. And yes it’s like the game Tetris. Things go flying, and tossed back and forth. It dosent matter how the suitcase is handled because it not secured in the cargo area of a commercial plane. I cant believe you were allowed to write this with no research at all. This has no facts in this at all, not even a sound opinion.

  12. Harry|

    Waste article
    Could have been short and simple

  13. CPM|

    I work in Central Baggage for a major U.S. airline. Just once I wish someone who writes this drivel really consulted someone who knows what they’re doing.

  14. Jody|

    I had at least one airline refuse to place a fragile sticker on a case unless I signed a waiver stating they woul not be responsible for any damage to it, nor its contents!

  15. Meg|

    I agree. Fragile sticker doesn’t sound like a good idea. And also often soft suitcases are able to flex when needed and more often are hard suitcases get damaged or cracked!!

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