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Why your Luggage gets Lost at the Airport – Most Common Reason

why your luggage gets lost

SITA released its annual report recently and the percentage of lost or mishandled bags per passenger is at a level 12.5% lower than last year. Only around 6 bags per 1000 were mishandled in the past year.  Most of these were misplaced during connecting flights. Nearly 50% of the mishandled bags were those delayed due to issues with transfers. Over all, this means that there is at least a 70% less chance that your bag will go missing now that what it was just 10 years ago.

Some of the airlines that have the worst problems with mishandling of bags in the US are Southwest Airlines with a rate of 3.08 baggage reports per 1000 passengers. Alaska Airlines are at a rate of 2.93 reports per 1000 passengers and American Airways is currently at 2.92 per 1000 passengers. Hawaiin Airlines fares slightly better with a rate of 2.88 baggage reports for every 1000 people that fly. A much smaller airline, Frontier has 2.22 reports per 1000 which puts it pretty close to US Airways with 2.14 per 1000. Moving up to some of the best luggage handling, we have Delta in at 2.10 baggage reports per 1000 passengers and Jetblue with only 48000 claims for the 25.7million passengers, taking them to a rate of 1.88 per 1000. AirTran is currently 2nd best rated in baggage handling and was been number 1 twice in the past five years, with a rate of 1.58 baggage claims for every 1000 people that use their service.  The current number one in luggage control in America is Virgin America with just 0.87 baggage reports per 1000. This means that only just over 5000 of the 6 million passengers they serviced had issues with their luggage. If one airline can do it, surely the rest can do more to reduce luggage issues?

Some Of The Most Common Reasons How Luggage Get Lost Or Delayed Include:

flight transferTransfer: Tags can get damaged during transporting and when they are offloaded off one plane and need to be loaded on to another, if the tags are unclear, they could end up on the wrong plane or being left behind. They would then need to be checked by someone who can arrange to have them rerouted or sent on the next available flight.


Loading: It is safer to have your bags handled by an attendant at the counter than to use a self-service kiosk as most bags that fail to be loaded at the original departure airport are due to them not being processed correctly.






Ticketing: Attendants are not infallible and occasionally they may enter the wrong airport code and your bag ends up somewhere else. Make sure you double check your baggage and that the code is correct.





The Weather: Ice, snow, heavy rain and other inclement weather of a more severe sort such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can see your baggage not getting to where it should be going. Flight cancellations, especially for an extended period of time, can see your luggage being delayed for longer than expected. There is no real solution to this one though.




Errors: No matter how many protocols and systems are in place, errors do happen. Often when the co-ordination between luggage being offloaded off one plane while other planes are being landed can cause luggage to be diverted. Luggage is often loaded up to 10 minutes before the plane is set to depart, which also leaves room for error and possibilities of the luggage being loaded on the wrong plane.





There are a few things you can do to limit the chance of your luggage going astray, although it is almost impossible to guarantee that it won’t be mishandled. Although the good news is that less than 5% of luggage that gets mishandled actually disappears forever.

Choose a bag that will stand out from the rest, perhaps look at bright colours, a distinctive design or other features that would help identify it easier should it not come off the carousel when it should.

Identification of some kind in one of the pockets on the front or sides of the bag with your name, contact information and itinerary would be helpful to allow baggage handlers to get hold of you when your luggage is found or if your bag ends up somewhere it shouldn’t have been. The easier it is to track you through your luggage and vice versa, the more likely you are to get your luggage returned in the case of it being mishandled.

Don’t leave any loose ends. If you have straps, laces or any other bits hanging off your bag, this could get caught in the belts that are used for unloading and loading of the plane causing your bag to be left behind.

Double check your bags to ensure they are coded with the correct airport code for your destination to reduce the chance of the bags being flown off somewhere else, without you.

Smart luggage tags can help you locate your bag easier and are recommended to be used where possible to reduce the change of your bag going missing. If your bag is fitted with a locater, you can use the app to check your baggage is onboard the same plane as you and even when it comes off the carousel.

All of the major airlines are using the World Tracer System. This will track a bag for up to 100 days using the information you gave about your bag in the report as well as following through on the history of the journey to figure out where the bag might have ended up or been delayed. The system uses this information to match the report to luggage found without tags that meet at least some of the criteria for the missing bag. The system searches around the clock, making links to the report and information received on unclaimed bag and sends back suggestions based on possible matches.  Once a bag is matched to the rightful owner, the airline then will facilitate the return of the luggage to the person. This is often accomplished within 24 hours. Bags that remain unclaimed for 90 days are generally discarded or sold off to defray expenses.

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