More than half a million (500.000) pieces of baggage are expected to be lost, misdirected, or damaged on U.S. domestic flights during this year’s busy travel season, according to LuggageHero and based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation figures from 2012 to April 2018.
Far from a lost cause
But checking baggage is far from a lost cause.
The good news is that, on average, complaints nationally have dropped overall by an impressive 27 percent since 2012. Some airlines, such as United, have improved by more than 50 percent, and no major U.S. airline is performing worse. Last September (the lowest month for lost bags, by the way), U.S. airlines chalked up the lowest monthly rate of mishandled baggage reports — 1.99 per 1,000 passengers — in 30 years.
Typically only 2 to 3 out of 1,000 travelers will have a bag lost or damaged, which means that luck, statistics, and airline tracking technology are on your side.
The bad news is that LuggageHero expects to see around 568,000 mishandled baggage reports filed this summer when some 228 million passengers will board one of our listed airlines.
Choose your airlines wisely
To increase your chances for smoother luggage handling, the first thing you can do is to choose your airlines wisely.
Among the 12 carriers we researched, Delta, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue soared highest, taking the top three spots when it comes to reliable baggage handling.
On the tail end, Envoy Air, ExpressJet, and SkyWest aren’t looking like tickets to luggage paradise. Since 2012, they’ve logged double the complaints of the top performers.
What to do if you have the baggage blues
If you end up being one of the unlucky ones, here are some things you can do.
- If your bag doesn’t arrive, or is damaged or tampered with, report it to the airline immediately, preferably while you’re at the airport. Otherwise, call them as soon as possible. Document as much as you can with photos, and save any communication you can.
- Make sure that a proper report is filed and that you get a copy of it.
- If you’re flying within the United States, DOT rules state that your baggage is covered up to $3,500 per passenger and $1,536 internationally. To collect, you need to fill out the necessary forms and have proof of loss.
- If your bag is damaged, request repair or replacement.
- If your bag is lost and you need to replace essential items, the airline should reimburse you for those costs
- If you paid a fee to check the bag, ask for a refund of the fee
- If you used a travel agent, ask the agent to assist
- If you paid by credit card and if you have travel insurance, ask if those agreements cover baggage loss or damage
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After increase in checked bag fees it can be difficult to get an overview of the current prices. Our study on this topic will show you the current prices for checked bags. However, there are several reasons for simply traveling with carry-on luggage, check out our report about which airline to choose when you’re traveling light.
About LuggageHero: LuggageHero is a network of safe, convenient, and affordable luggage storage sites in local shops, cafés, and hotels. We charge by the hour, and have more than 250 drop-off points in New York City, London, and Copenhagen. And, in case you’re wondering, we have a much better record than the airlines. Since starting in 2016, we have not had one single report of damaged or lost luggage. But fear not, if there is a problem, each bag, and its contents comes with up to $3,000 of insurance coverage. Read more here.
About our methodology: LuggageHero analyzed baggage performance by looking at U.S. Department of Transportation Mishandled Baggage Report figures from 2012 to April 2018, published in Air Travel Consumer Report, a monthly product of the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, Aviation Consumer Protection Division. From there, we calculated which airlines take good care of your baggage and which take less care, and how that’s changed over the years. The forecast is the result of an ETS model fit for every reported airline. DOT baggage reports come from passenger reports of mishandled baggage, which includes lost, delayed, damaged, or pilfered luggage.