Question about airline checked baggage

As everyone knows, when you check a bag, they print a label sticker and affix it to your luggage, then it goes into the stream headed for the belly of the plane.

What happens if the bag gets the label, but doesn’t go into the stream? Nothing? Or do alarms go off?

Here’s some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the question:

As passenger A boards, they force him to check the bag at the gate. However, this passenger ignores the instruction to leave his bag on the jetway and instead takes his bag onboard and finds a spot in the overhead bin since he intended to carry-on. Does passenger A have a normal flight without problems?

Passenger B is unscrupulous and does as above, but tries to claim the bag was lost by the airline in order to scam money from them. Successful?

Note: I have no intention of scamming anyone… was just wondering about this and couldn’t find the answer online.

I’m not an expert on the total behind-the-scenes baggage process. But I do know this much …

At my carrier each bag tag is scanned as it enters the conveyor system behind the ticket counter. Gate-checked bag tags are scanned as they are picked up by the ramp crew at the jetway.

All bag tags are scanned as they go up the conveyor into the aircraft belly.

I don’t know how many scans happen where at the arrival end. But I do know the systemic goal is “cradle to grave” tracking of each item of baggage or cargo in our care.

So in your scenarios our systems would know that although the bag tag was issued, the bag was never surrendered to our people / equipment.

Believe me, if there’s an opportunity to scam, the scammers have long since already tried it. And we’ve got systems in place to attempt to thwart it.

In my experience, they usually have a stack of gate-check tags at the gate, and they don’t scan the tag before handing it to the passenger. So they have no way of knowing that a tag has been “issued” (taken) but not used.

The computers scan the tag at every opportunity. Modern systems as I understand use tags and gates on conveyors to route luggage to the correct loading point. If a bag was never scanned at all by the system, it obviously never got put into the system (or it’s stuck in the fist few feet of the conveyor system, easily checked). Good luck claiming a loss for something that never made it into the system.

One major concern of security, is did the bag get on the plane without the passenger? So boarding pass (scanned) is probably computer matched with luggage (scanned) in the computer. I would think someone should care that a baggage ticket was printed but never seen beyond there, but the major concern is the baggage was loaded but not the passenger.

(I was recently on a flight with US customs pre-clearance; the computer system was down, so we had to divert to the luggage holding and point out our bag before leaving the customs area. One agent mentioned that normally they had a photo of the associated luggage to match with the passenger boarding pass.)

Obviously, unchecked baggage with or without tags is scanned by the TSA security checkpoint if it is to become carry-on, so taking your checked baggage still does not expedite carrying contraband onboard.

Eh? The check tags are printed. Each has a unique barcode.

Yes, one half goes on the bag, the other half goes in the passenger’s pocket. If the passenger gate checks a bag it’s going on the plane either in the baggage compartment or the passenger compartment and what scr4 said is absolutely correct. The airline would have no way of knowing if the passenger carried it on board unless the boarding agent or flight crew observed it.

I was taking issue with the statement that there is a “stack of gate check tags”.

The last time I flew (I think it was US Airways), there was literally a bin full of gate-check tags for the passengers to take. Of course each tag has a unique code, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be printed on demand.

In fact, now that I think about it, I asked whether I need to gate-check my bag and the attendant said: “Maybe. Take a tag in case you need to.” So they clearly don’t keep track of which tags get issued to which passenger, or whether they’re used at all.

They do. They look like this.

There’s a separate tag at the bottom with the same numbers as the main part of the tag. You keep that as proof that it’s your bag, should anyone ask.

Huh. The last time I got one they printed the same self-adhesive “loop” you get at the check-in counter.