We recently had the question How can luggage be lost if it has a bag tag?

The question was closed as off-topic, but there was disagreement in the comments about whether or not it should be considered off-topic.

One comment suggested posting it on Travel.SE, but others pointed out (and as a semi-frequent contributor on both sites, I would agree) that it's not really within the expertise of that site. Travel.SE is mostly just frequent travelers with only a relatively small percentage having any significant familiarity how anything works behind the scenes at an airport.

That being said, the question not being especially likely to attract a good answer at Travel.SE doesn't make it on-topic (or likely to attract a good answer) here.

Currently, the On-Topic page for Aviation says that questions about "The "passenger aspects" of commercial air travel" are off-topic. Personally, I would consider questions about baggage handling to largely fall into that category, but, since there seemed to be some disagreement, I wanted to raise the question here to see what the community thinks.


I would prefer to see that question remain closed as off-topic here.

It has very little (if anything) to do specifically with aviation. It is (in my opinion) exactly about the "passenger aspect of air travel".

As you said, just because it might not get a good answer on Travel, does not mark it out as on-topic here. There just might not be a Stack specifically fitting for this question currently, that is until there is a BaggageHandlers.se or even AirportOperations.se

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    $\begingroup$ On that note, if we had enough experts to actually answer the questions on it, I would love to see an AirportOperations.SE. I personally have little experience with that (just what any GA pilot and frequent flyer would have,) but I think it would make very interesting reading. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 15 '19 at 16:39

One possibility I could see would have some baggage handling questions be on-topic, while others remain off-topic:

  • On-topic: Baggage handling questions that specifically relate to loading the baggage onto or unloading it from an aircraft are on-topic. These can actually be important to aviation for a number of reasons, not the least of which is weight and balance.

  • Off-topic: Baggage handling questions that relate to tracking the bag through the airport, moving it through the airport, checking it in with the airline, collecting it from the airline, lost and found, etc. are off-topic.

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    $\begingroup$ I second this answer. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Nov 16 '19 at 22:54

This feeds into the larger subject of whether we consider airports part of "Aviation", for the purposes of this site. They are not explicitly listed in the on-topic list.

Since most airport-related questions do not get closed, tags like and don't get removed, and since there's no separate SE for airport operations (nor should the sites be split so finely), it seems that we currently include airports in aviation.

So I think luggage questions are on the very edge of being on-topic, and depend on which perspective the question is looking for.
"How to reduce the chances of my bag getting lost" should be off-topic and migrated to Travel.SE.
"How do airports deliver the bags to the airplanes" should still be on-topic.

The linked question was asked by a passenger who had their bag lost, which clearly pushed it into the Travel territory. If depersonalized and narrowed down, e.g. to "How is luggage tracked between airports" or "What information can be obtained about a luggage bag from its tags", or "How is passenger baggage transferred, and how does it happen so quickly?", a similar question might just make it into our scope.

In other words, when dealing with systems the general public comes in contact with:

  • How does the system work - appropriate for both Aviation.SE and Travel.SE
  • How do I use the system - belongs on Travel.SE

It can be a blurry line. The luggage check-in and pick-up processes are clearly part of Travel. The internal handling of luggage by the airlines is, IMO, still an aviation matter, even if it's one related to its ground operations.

I don't think a small amount of overlap between Aviation and Travel is necessarily a bad thing. I'd rather see questions right on the edge asked on one (or even both) of the sites than on neither.

We already have a similar overlap with Space.SE, where the Orbiter's aerodynamics are an appropriate subject for both Aviation.SE and Space.SE.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, Yeah, airports are indeed not explicitly listed in the on-topic page, but many things related to ground operations and airport design are explicitly related to operating and maintaining aircraft, so I would think of those as being definitely on topic here. Agreed that baggage movement is right on the edge of what's on topic here, but I would think a question about what information is on the luggage tag wouldn't be much different than asking what information is on a boarding pass and is passenger-related rather than aviation-related. An check-in agent is more likely to know than a pilot. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 16 '19 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab But aviation isn't just the pilots. It's also the engineers, the ATC controllers, the mechanics, and even the airport staff. $\endgroup$
    – Therac
    Nov 16 '19 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, but I was running out of characters. :) I would say that which airport staff again depends on the role, though. Mechanics, yes. ATCOs, yes. Ramp workers, at least usually yes. Gate agents, check-in agents, baggage desk agents, airport concession staff, security, etc., not really (at least their job functions, that is... they could, of course, also fall into the aviation enthusiast category.) Those would fall pretty squarely in the "passenger aspects of commercial air travel" in my view, which is explicitly off-topic here. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 16 '19 at 19:29

The tag may have simply been misread/not read (there's a move towards RFID), scratched/snagged off, and/or the auto-conveyor made a mistake, combined with lack of attention (or slow response) to the monitoring cameras, combined with the lack of portable scanners in some airports. And when the bag is finally found in the incorrect location, and say identified via CCTV due to a missing tag (takes time), the flight would have departed or is about to, which isn't a good reason to stop its departure.

Half the time it's issues in transferring the bag(s) to a connecting flight. Other times it's theft.

None of that IMO is aviation, it is more of Logistics.SE (404 not found) or Travel.SE (since it's in IATA's scope).

Why do airlines still mislay 25 million bags a year? 4 June 2019, BBC

  • $\begingroup$ I think that specific question was about bags actually getting lost for days, not just missing their originally-intended flights. It even refers to the bags that are being sold at auction after not being able to return them to their original owner. Still, though, agreed that none of that really has anything to do with aviation. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 15 '19 at 19:29

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