Luggage Lost: It’s a Slippery Slope

It only gets worse for travelers, according to today’s NY Times. Luggage is being lost and it is hard for the airlines to catch up.

“Since Aug. 10, when a ban on most carry-on liquids sent the amount of checked luggage soaring, airlines have been misplacing many more bags, and the fumbling could well escalate during the busy holiday travel season.

The Transportation Department reported that 107,731 more fliers had their bags go missing in August than they did a year earlier, a 33 percent increase. It got worse in September, with 183,234 more passengers suffering mishandled bags than a year earlier, up 92 percent.

Globally, about 30 million bags are mishandled each year, according to SITA, a company that sells software to airlines and airports for baggage and other systems. Airlines spend about $2.5 billion to find those bags and deliver them to waiting, often angry, passengers.

All but about 200,000 bags are eventually reunited with their owners each year — a number that sounds pretty high on its own, but that represents less than 1 percent of the billions of bags that are checked annually.

Because of the relatively primitive technology used by airlines to track baggage, passengers typically only learn that their luggage missed their flight after a futile wait at the carousel. Then, travelers must hunt down baggage agents, fill out forms, and wait for hours or even days for someone, often unannounced, to deliver their bags.”