It's an unjust covenant of air travel: the airline may lose your bag, and there's nothing you can do about it. If you're a frequent flyer, like a business traveler, the odds of that happening only go up.

I recently experienced this when, despite having luggage with all the internet-of-things bells and whistles, my "smart" bag proved useless when it got lost. It took two hours just to start the recovery process, and $50 and two weeks to get the bag back. The kicker? The bag wasn't actually lost; it was just 100 feet away on the wrong carousel.

I'm hardly the first person to experience this. Last year, seven out of every 1,000 bags were mishandled. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 2,586,582 passengers per day. That's 18,078 missing bags per day.

That may be changing, though, thanks to entrepreneur Zikrullo Atamuloev ("Zik"). His one and only lost-bag experience (so far) was so bad he never forgot the ordeal. To combat that anxiety-inducing memory and help lessen the frustrations that go with missing luggage, Zik founded Unicobag.

Think of the company as UberEats for missing luggage: Check on your bag. Get a notification if it's mishandled. Make a claim via the app. Decide if you want it directly delivered.

"We want airlines and passengers to monitor screens and automatize every detail of the life cycle of baggage handling," says Zik. "In doing so, passengers never have to wait at carousels, spend time on claims or waste time at baggage offices."

What do we do in the meantime, as contracts with airlines get sorted out and Unicobag makes its way to airports around the U.S.? I talked to Zik, who noted that travelers can take some proactive steps to making their journeys a little easier in the meantime. If you're like me and rely on travel for a large part of your job, these tips will come in handy again and again while you're on the road (or in the air).

1. Pack lighter and plan more.

Technologies like RFID tags, internal carousel systems, and checking and scanning kiosks are helping a little here. Airlines, meanwhile, have the data to make even more improvements and, even if they can't avoid lost luggage, they could make small changes that relieve stress throughout the process.

But according to Zik, the impetus is really on you to avoid having your bag mishandled. He advises passengers to be proactive: "If you arrive earlier and pack under the restrictions there's a lower chance your bag will be mishandled because it'll be sorted earlier." That really boils down to good planning, which will make any air journey less stressful. Know what you're going to wear to that conference, the dinner afterward, if you'll need extra chargers, pens, etc.

2. Make the waiting time as productive as possible.

Lost bags are a waiting game: you wait at the carousel, in the baggage office, during the paperwork phase. Then it's waiting to get a status update and for the bag to actually show up. "The very worst thing is to wait, without knowing how long you will wait." Ziko says.

This is something Unicobag is trying to alleviate. Yes, any traveler must accept the odds that their bag could get lost. But with Zik's company, an app is telling you how long the wait for your missing bag will be, providing you with insights you can act on. If the bag is lost and it will be a matter of minutes to get it back, hang out and send some emails. If it means an hour, go back to the terminal shops and pick up that last-minute gift you needed to buy. The point is, you're armed with more information about your bags, which takes the guesswork out of the process and lets you get on with your day.

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3. Practice acceptance.

Remember, once you're checked in, you have zero control over your bags. Even with a solution like Unicobag, there is still a chance of your luggage will go missing and you'll wind up in a two-week waiting period. Practice patience, and a little common sense. For example, don't check laptops or medications. Don't start ranting at the claims employee when you discover there will be a wait time for your luggage--it won't make your bag appear any faster. Accept the situation for what it is, and move on.

"We can't eradicate the human errors but we can have a better window into where our things are and protect our time accordingly," Zik says. It's exactly that attitude that will keep you from going crazy if your bag gets lost, and make travel just a little easier for everyone.

Published on: Aug 15, 2017
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