How Often Do Airlines Lose Passenger Luggage?

airline lost my luggage now what

After the pandemonium of this past holiday travel season, most people are aware of how things can go wrong. Report after report of long lines, delayed flights, and late luggage filled the headlines as travelers tried to get home for the holidays. But out of all the annoying airline grievances, lost luggage was the worst.  

Unfortunately, lost luggage can’t be blamed for an overtaxed system due to holiday travel and bad weather. Rates of “mishandled” bags have increased significantly since January 2022. 

Every U.S. Airline Has Bungled Baggage

According to the Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, every U.S. airline has had issues with getting luggage back to flyers. Between January and June 2022, all airlines managed to lose 1.4 million bags. Since the last report, some airlines have almost tripled how often they lose bags. 

The worst culprit was American Airlines, which earned a lost baggage rate of 0.93 mishandled bags per 100 enplaned. Between January and June 2022, American Airlines lost a whopping 300,590 out of 32,311,510 bags. 

Other offenders included the following popular airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • United Airlines

These stats reflect more accurately your chances of losing luggage if you travel soon, compared to the increased rates experienced during the holidays. They don’t include the mishap of holiday travel — when the industry was extraordinarily overburdened and losing your luggage was even more likely.

Why Are Lost Baggage Rates Increasing?

Like many things wrong with the world today, you can blame the increased number of lost bags on the pandemic. Fewer people were traveling during the heart of the pandemic, which resulted in airlines and airports reducing their staff. 

Related – What to do if the airline loses your bag

Now three years into the pandemic, most travelers are back to their usual itineraries, and the number of flyers is pretty much back to normal. Unfortunately, the travel industry hasn’t been able to return to normal quite as quickly.

Staffing shortages across the country mean fewer people are looking after luggage, increasing the chances of your baggage going missing. These shortages will last well into 2023, according to United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby.

“The industry capacity aspirations for 2023 and beyond are simply unachievable,” Kirby announced. “That means the system simply can’t handle the volume today, much less the anticipated growth.”

What to Do if an Airline Loses Your Bag?

With such a pessimistic view of the industry, you can expect your chances of a lost bag to remain high this year. This doesn’t guarantee your luggage will get lost, but it’s a good idea to know how to handle this frustrating and stressful situation if it does. 

First of all, you should speak with an airline rep to file a missing baggage report. This will jumpstart an investigation that might locate your bags in the best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, this paperwork is what you need to receive compensation for your lost luggage.

Compensation varies depending on the contents of your bags. However, the Department of Transportation applies these maximums to an airline’s liability:

  • Domestic Flights: $3,800
  • International Flights:  $1,780

That means you can receive up to these listed limits to cover the cost of replacing your lost belongings. If this isn’t enough, check your travel insurance and credit card policies. They may provide additional compensation for lost baggage that goes above and beyond what the airlines cover. 

What’s the Timeline for Lost Luggage?

Unfortunately, there is no single rule that applies to all situations. Each airline has its own policy before they declare your bags lost and not missing. 

In some cases, you could wait a few days before the airline tracks down your luggage and reunites you with your belongings. But sometimes, turnaround times can last weeks before they admit they can’t find your bags.

How Do You Handle a Long Waiting Period?

Losing any kind of luggage can be devastating, but how you approach it depends on when your bags go missing. 

If you’re returning home, you’re on home turf, so you can rely on other clothes in your wardrobe to fill in what’s missing. You can also see your doctor about refilling any prescriptions. 

However, if you just started your trip, replacing things becomes that much more difficult — and expensive — while abroad. 

Most people don’t have a lot of available credit on their credit cards during or after travel. The same goes for savings, as many people use them to afford their trips. Without credit cards or savings, you can research personal loans online as a backup. 

Online loans could be a good alternative when you can’t make an in-person application at your usual bank. Instead, you can visit a website like MoneyKey to learn about emergency personal loans and what you need to apply while abroad.

If you’re approved for an online loan, you can use your funds to replace the essential items you need to live safely and comfortably. Just make sure you keep all your receipts after you make these purchases, as you may need to file them with the airlines later. 

What can you do BEFORE your luggage is lost? Pack to Offset the Effects of Lost Bags

Some simple tips can help reduce the chances you run into this issue. Here are some of them below:

  • Remove straps and other buckles that could get stuck on machinery. 
  • Apply a suitcase cover to protect your luggage.
  • Invest in an item-tracking device to keep eyes on its location at all times.

But perhaps the best way to avoid this calamity is by not checking your bags. Learning how to travel with just a carry-on will guarantee your bags don’t go to Germany while you fly to South Korea. 

You shouldn’t reconsider traveling this year because of the risk of lost luggage, but it should inform how you travel. Now you know what you could face, you can plan your trip better. Keep this in mind for any travel plans you have in the next year—they can help you handle the unexpected with greater confidence. 

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!