Is there anything better than that feeling when the luggage belt starts up, the lights blink, the siren wails, and you see your bag come out first? It's a little bit like finding a piece of caramel popcorn in your butter popcorn at the movie theater — a most unexpected surprise, very pleasant, and something you didn't pay extra for, so you're not sure if you really deserve.
As exhilarating as the feeling is, there's actually a way to engineer the luggage situation so that it happens more frequently. You just need to know a few tricks to help you speed up the process — especially helpful when you're in a rush and your connections depend on it.
One trick that can help is checking in last. According to ramp and gate agent Thomas Lo Sciuto, bags that are loaded last are unloaded first, because of the nature of the process.
If you have a small bag, you can even ask the airline staff at the counter (nicely) if you can gate check it once you get through security. This way, you will get it as you exit the plane rather than wait at the belt at all. It doesn't get faster than that! Yes, that process limits what you can take through — but will help in a rush.
If you want to up your chances even more, tell the staff you have something very fragile in your bag. They'll add a fragile sticker (for free). According to Travel + Leisure, these bags are loaded last (meaning they'll be unloaded first).
While these strategies are all worth a try, every airline works differently — so there is no one true way to game the system. For example, while some airlines arrange the luggage related to loading sequence, according to Conde Nast Traveler, others spread it out in the plane for weight distribution... meaning that checking in last won't help at all.
If you want to have a guarantee that your bag will come out first, then you'll have to either fly business or first class. Some airline frequent flier mile programs offer incentives to those with elite status to board first and have your luggage come out first as well, so you can look into signing up for loyalty programs or travelers credit cards that offer those specific types of incentives.
If you're really in a rush, the only sure-fire way to go, of course, is carry-on only. Learn to pack small and take only the necessities: It'll save you time, avoid the possibility of lost luggage, and usually save money as well.
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