The Statistics Behind Lost Luggage — It’s Getting Better


If asked what my No. 1 aspect I hate about travel, it’s traveling with luggage. Maneuvering a four-wheeled, 29-inch beast is a shit-show even for veteran business travelers and the like because a thousand people are doing the same thing in a confined space. My priority when I get to the airport is to separate myself from my large luggage as quickly as possible.

Then with tourists, in my top-tier of complaints about them is they pack too much or bring too much on the airplane. I’ll give you a recent example of this. When I was at passport control at Newark, I saw a guy doing the two backpack sandwich thing. He had a huge camping style backpack on his back and one regular-size slung on his front like a newborn baby pouch. How did he get his camping backpack past security and the 22-inch limit on carry-ons?

I got to thinking, why don’t people check-in their luggage? I thought of two reasons. One, they don’t want to pay the baggage fee. But, this is a Virgin Atlantic flight, first bag is free. Two, they don’t want their luggage loss and don’t trust the airlines.

So, I looked for a lost luggage report to see if my suspicions were true. It has gotten better. Way better.

baggage-reportSITA, an international transportation technology company, released a report on lost luggage. The headline being that lost luggage is down 61.3% since 2007. Out of 1,000 domestic and international passengers, 7.3 loose their luggage in 2014. Domestic is 3.22. This is at a time when the numbers of passengers are increasing.

On the left you see the reasons why luggage is lost. No. 1 is transfer mishandling, that includes going from one airline to another. I’ve never asked that my luggage be transferred when I’m connecting at a flight from a different airline. Obviously, stick with one airline when traveling but sometimes it’s your only option. I’d rather pick it up and re-check it in. I make sure to give myself 2-3 hours between flights. Thus, in a lifetime of air travel, I’ve never lost my luggage.

I even had this delightful exchange at passport control at Heathrow when I had to go from Terminal 5 to Terminal 2. I had to write on my landing card that I’m just transferring my bag between the two.

Officer: “You just transferring? You can ask British Airways to take your bag over to Virgin.”

Me: “I’d rather do it myself to make sure. I have plenty of time.”

Officer: “That’s smart. I don’t think BA and Virgin like each other very much.”

Me: “Probably. You like me though?”

Officer: (laughs) “Cheeky aren’t you?”

If you do get your luggage lost, you’re probably on a shitty airline to begin with like Spirit or American Eagle. It’s cheap for a reason.

With digital tracking services being used by airlines and airports, I would think the situation is going to improve even more. Then, passengers can buy Wi-Fi tracking for their luggage so they know exactly where it is.

You know who doesn’t want to lose your luggage more than you? The airlines. They’ve saved $18 billion over that 2007-2014 time period from investing in technology.  The savings comes from delivering your bag to your hotel or home, staffing for lost luggage or the $3,300 baggage liability claim they have to pay out.

If airlines do lose your luggage, they don’t throw their hands in the air and say, “Hey, what can you do?” So the investment in better tracking equipment and baggage handling improvements is justified. Airlines spend $4 billion a year on lost luggage, according to the report. Also, they loose future business from disgruntled customers.

Point being, check your damn luggage in.

4 thoughts on “The Statistics Behind Lost Luggage — It’s Getting Better

  1. This JUST happened to me last week. I was going from Nice to Oslo, Oslo to JFK, all on Norwegian Air. I had to switch planes, but not airlines. Should have been OK, right? Nope. They left my bag (and the bags of most people who connected in Oslo) in Norway. The weird thing was, I checked 2 bags, and 1 of them made it to JFK on time. But the delayed bag was on the same flight to JFK the next day. Unfortunately, because the people at JFK were kind of clueless, it didn’t get delivered to me for another 2 days, and only after I made about 20 phone calls and talked to many, many different people, only a few of which had a clue. (Thank goodness for those few!) Despite that headache (and having to buy emergency undies at Duane Reade), I totally agree with you. My number one priority when I get to the airport is to ditch the biggest bag I have ASAP. I advise all to do the same. And, if you are connecting, maybe write in fluorescent paint the desired end destination for your bag, just in case. 🙂


  2. […] To be filed under, “Go Figure,” the airlines on-time performance in July increased from June’s 68.4% to 70.9%, but complaints filed to the Department of Transportation are up 20.3% from the same time last year. The 9,542 complaints are what you expect — flight delays, lost baggage and ticketing problems. As I reported earlier, lost luggage is on the decline. […]


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