We’ve Been Tying Ribbons to Our Suitcases for Years to Spot Them at the Airport. Workers Say It's a Terrible Idea

“If the bag can’t be scanned automatically, it can end up in manual processing, which could mean your bag doesn’t make it to the flight,” airport handlers say.

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I always do it, and maybe you do, too. You just have to look at the check-in area of any airport in the world to see that many people tie ribbons, scarves, and laces to their suitcases to differentiate them. Whether it’s a brightly colored scarf, an old bracelet, or a ribbon with a name on it, it doesn’t matter. 

The purpose is clear: People want to be able to clearly distinguish their suitcases from those belonging to other passengers. As such, travelers mark it in an unmistakable way (or so they think) so that when it appears on the conveyor belt, they know it’s theirs.

However, it turns out that this may not be as good of an idea as we thought.

Good on paper... But not so good in practice. Although many of us attach ribbons to our checked-in luggage to identify them easily, this trick has its weaknesses. Interestingly, airport employees are the ones warning against the practice.

Putting a ribbon or handkerchief on your bag handle can make it easier for you to spot it and speed up the check-in process, but it can cause problems for baggage handlers. It might even lead to longer security checks and ultimately disrupt your travel plans.


“It can cause issues.” John, a baggage handler at Dublin Airport who only gave his first name, said in a recent warning. The Irish airport is a huge building through which nearly 32 million passengers passed through last year alone, along with their suitcases. Speaking to Irish outlet RSVP Magazine, the airport employee warns that, in certain cases, the identifying objects people use to differentiate their checked baggage can complicate the scanning process.

“Ribbons that people tie onto their suitcases to help identify them can cause issues with the bag being scanned in the baggage hall,” the Dublin Airport employee says. “If the bag can’t be scanned automatically, it can end up in manual processing, which could mean your bag doesn’t make it to the flight.” Ultimately, what’s meant to speed up travel and avoid losses at the airport could end up causing the opposite–a big problem.

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The list of advice goes on and on. The example above is just one of the many pieces of advice provided by the Dublin airport staffer. To ensure a smooth, quick, and pleasant experience while navigating the airport, John suggests three additional tips that are easy to follow. The first tip is quite straightforward: Remove old flight stickers. “[They] can cause confusion with the scanning process,” he says.

The second tip is to place the wheels of the suitcase upwards to avoid damage while handling it. And the third, a little more unusual but just as important: Avoid carrying marzipan in your travel bags, no matter how much you like these almond-based sweets. Why? “It has the same density as some explosives, so your bag will be removed and you’ll be called from the plane for a bag search.”

Other traveling tips. John’s advice isn’t the only one out there to help you speed up waiting for your suitcase to appear on the conveyor belt.

In 2023, The Sun published two tips to make your suitcases and other items the first to appear at the baggage claim hall. The first tip is to place a sticker identifying them as “fragile,” which will help them to be among the first to be unloaded. The second tip is to check in as late as possible. However, this may not be suitable for the faint-hearted and may cause more than one scare if the traveler doesn’t calculate the times properly.

Image | Gary Bembridge via Flickr | Friend JAD via Flickr

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