With tens of millions of people taking to the skies this holiday season, it’s inevitable that a bag or two will be lost, damaged, or temporarily misplaced along the way. But there are steps you can take to make sure yours isn’t one of them – like booking with an airline that has a decent track record

A pile of different coloured suitcases stacked on top of each other.
To minimize the odds of losing your luggage, choose an airline with a good track record © Maurizio Milanesio/Shutterstock

To gauge which carriers are the most responsible baggage-handlers, storage startup LuggageHero looked at three years worth of data from 12 major American airlines, courtesy of the US Department of Transportation’s mishandled baggage reports for the month of December from 2016 to 2018. 

The verdict? Based on those historic holiday-season performances, traveling with Virgin Atlantic, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue Airways give you the best odds of being reunited with your suitcase at baggage claim, and Richard Branson’s Virgin was the standout, losing just 1.86 out of 1000 pieces of luggage during the busy month. (Last year, Frontier came out in front during that time, misplacing four from 1000 bags.) 

Suitcases stacked on a luggage trolley in an international airport
Virgin Atlantic is your best bet, based on previous years' performances, while ExpressJet and American are tied for the worst © Mongkol Chuewong/Getty Images

Running in the middle of the pack are Spirit, Delta, United, Hawaiian, Southwest, and Frontier, with Skywest, ExpressJet, and American Airlines bringing up the rear, with 5.03, 5.51, and 5.56 lost pieces of luggage out of 1000, respectively. This is nothing new for American – the carrier has come in dead last for the past three years and had the highest mishandle rate this past December, losing almost nine of 1000 bags. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In its annual report on lost and mishandled luggage for 2019, LuggageHero predicted that this December would be an improvement on years past, forecasting a 21% decrease from the number of reports recorded from 2012 to 2018. And, when examining the trends from year to year, the totals dropped from 2016 to 2017, then rose from 2017 to 2018 – so the hope is that this year, the number of reports will fall once again. 

Luggage on a conveyor belt at an international airport
LuggageHero predicts that this December will be smoother sailing than in years past © Mongkol Chuewong/Getty Images

Of course, these statistics all rely on passengers’ own filings, so if your bag is lost, or items from it are stolen, that’s an added incentive to report it to the airline ASAP – while you’re still in the airport if at all possible. (Documentation is key, so be sure to take photos and save any relevant correspondence.) If loss or damage occurs while your luggage is in the carrier’s possession, the airline is responsible for repair or reimbursement – up to US$3500 for domestic flights and around $1550 for international flights – and they have to reimburse you if you need to replace any essentials, too. 

For more details, visit luggagehero.com

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