Lonely Planet Writer

Lost luggage: good news for airline passengers as mishandled bag numbers continue to drop

It may not be much consolation if your suitcase does disappear in transit but the chances of bags actually going missing or getting damaged during airline travel has dropped significantly.

Decrease in lost luggage numbers.
Decrease in lost luggage numbers. Image by Kenneth Lu / CC BY 2.0

A major new report has revealed that the number of bags being mishandled last year – either delayed, damaged, or pilfered – dropped by 10.5%.

The rate of mishandled bags was 6.5 bags per thousand in 2015, which was the lowest ever rate recorded and half of what it was in 2003. The improvement has come despite a rise of 85% in passenger numbers during the past 13 years.

Rates of bag mishandling are likely to continue to fall in fact, with improved technology, particularly the ability to track luggage at every point in its journey.

Francesco Violante, CEO of air technology firm SITA, said: “Over the next three years, bag tracking will be in the spotlight.

“It means that passengers will be able to track their bag, just like a parcel, which will reduce anxiety and allow them to take fast action if flights are disrupted and their bags are delayed.”

The baggage report by SITA also found that self-service bag drops were provided by 40% of all airlines and airports, and that three-quarters would provide them by 2018.

Permanent electronic tags for frequent fliers are also starting to become a feature, which offer updated information on journeys via a mobile-phone app.

Despite the improved baggage performance, mishandled bags still cost the airline industry dearly with the cost estimated at $2.3 billion last year.

Francesco Violante said: “While this is a 3.75% reduction from 2014, it is clear that this must remain an area of focus for the industry. Passenger experience is paramount and improving baggage handling will deliver improvements for passengers along with cost savings.”