Let's give the airlines their due, it's a miracle more luggage doesn't go missing. Many of us have trouble turning up to the airport and meeting connecting flights ourselves, let alone attempting the juggling act that is managing the several million-odd bags buzzing around the world at any given time.
About 11 out of every 1000 checked bags will be lost, adding up to around 30 million bags going awol around the world each year. But 97 per cent of those bags will eventually reach their owners - not that "eventually" is much use if you need the contents of the bag upon arrival. And that still leaves around one million bags unclaimed (standard practice is for those bags to be destroyed after six months).
Again, our old friends at Heathrow often feature in discussions about lost luggage. The bad old days of "Thiefrow", when travellers' luggage was thought to be susceptible to a tickler from a light-fingered Cockney, are long gone.
Nonetheless, a friend of mine was Heathrow-whacked a few weeks back when a bag of his, containing a suit to be worn at a wedding in Wanaka and gifts for the happy couple, disappeared down the conveyor belt at check-in without the appropriate sticker attached by the Air New Zealand staffer at the desk.
(A smart tip for the cyber-literate: My friend and his wife complained through the standard channels, sending emails and making phone calls. But they felt the Air New Zealand machinery really swing into action when they took their story to Twitter. Anyone who follows Air New Zealand on Twitter - and you should, they have some good giveaways and one-liners @FlyAirNZ - will know that our national carrier places great emphasis on its online profile.)
After a brief Twitter exchange, my mates saw a trebling of the amount of cash Air New Zealand was offering as compensation for the inconvenience. (Footnote: their luggage also arrived, though the suit was too late for the wedding.)
* The key tips are obvious. Make sure it's tagged, inside and out, with all your contact details. Smartest of all: When it comes to colour, think pink.