Airlines mishandled 24.1 million pieces of luggage in 2014

There were 3.3 billion enplaned passengers in 2014, so it’s probably no surprise that many have heard or experienced horror stories regarding baggage. Here’s a round-up of the latest baggage statistics, technological advancements that are making a difference, and what can be done to minimise the chance of losing your luggage.

Mishandled bags are on the decrease

According to a 2015 report from the Air Transport Industry, the rate of mishandled bags in 2014 has decreased by 61.3% since its peak in 2007. That’s certainly good news for passengers and airlines alike.

Baggage drop facilities are on the increase

More good news is that airlines and airports have been working to implement more assisted bag drop systems for passengers. By 2017, 74% of airports and 86% of airlines plan to have a bag-drop system. Additionally, 35% of airlines already provide real-time baggage information, a figure that is expected to increase to 79% in the next 3 years.

Print your own luggage label facilities gain popularity

In addition to assisted bag drop and real-time tracking, more airlines are allowing customers to bring their own luggage tags from home to avoid errors at the airport. This system allows passengers to have more control, with about 25% already choosing to use permanent bag tags or print their own labels at home.

Related: How to save on international data when travelling

These innovations should lead to shorter baggage lines and a more accurate way of tracing where luggage has gone. Despite more people flying than ever, simple improvements have led to a reduction in lost baggage over the years.

How do bags get delayed?

Transfer mishandling

Loading error

Failure to load

Ticketing error

Tagging error

If you are travelling on connecting flights it is more likely that your bags can get lost in the system.

Baggage Fact: As reported in ‘Air Transport Industry Insights 2015’ there were 7.3 mishandled bags per 1000 passengers in 2014.

So is there a way to decrease the chance of your luggage being one of the unlucky few?

How to decrease the chance & impact of your bags getting lost

Even if the contents of your bag aren’t particularly valuable, it’s not a great way to start or end a holiday. You could reduce the chances of your baggage going missing by following some of the tips below, and if the worst does happen, there are some tips for that too.

How to not lose your bag

  • Selecting an airline who offer bag tracking technology (ask when booking your ticket)
  • Invest in a permanent bag tag for between $30 and $50 for your flights. The tags update digitally as flight plans change. Here’s an example from Qantas that can be used domestically in Australia.
  • Use self-serve baggage kiosks if available (this cuts down on human error).
  • Print out your own tags and attach them in several different spots just in case one gets damaged.
  • Get your own baggage tracker that uses an app to follow your bags as they travel. Trackdot is just one example.

If this sounds like too much technology, try flying through the airport that has never lost a single piece of luggage, Kansai International Airport in Japan.

Planning for the worst…

  • Use carry-on luggage to bring a spare change of clothes aboard so you have something else to wear.
  • Put a copy of your tag on the inside of your checked bag so when opened it is easily seen.
  • Buy a bag that can be easily identified and thereby not mistakenly taken by another passenger – you can also use stickers or coloured security straps to do this.
  • Take your valuables on board.
  • Leave your travel itinerary inside you bag, but try not to include too much personal information.

Tech stat: By 2017, 66% of airlines will offer mobile updates about baggage location.

What should I do if my bags get lost?

If your bags do not appear on the carousel, many airlines have a lost baggage kiosk where you can get help. Should the airline be using technology to follow it, they should be able to identify where your suitcase currently is. From there they should also be able to help you get it back. There are also ways to report your missing luggage online, but going directly to the source is often quicker.

Hot Tip: Take a picture of your bags before loading, include any distinguishing features so they can be easily identified.

Did you know? Of all the bags mishandled in 2014:

  • Delayed bags made up 80.2%
  • Damaged and pilfered bags were at 14.3%
  • Lost and stolen bags were at 5.5%

Looking ahead at luggage

Airlines and airports are working to further decrease the numbers of lost luggage by utilising technologies at hand and those under development. In 2015, XML messaging will be further developed to make communications between airports and airlines more efficient.

Make sure you get the right cover for all your luggage: Compare providers here

The International Air Transport Association is working toward compulsory airline tracking of bags, which will require:

  • A record of delivery and acquisition.
  • Tracking on arrival, loading and transfers.
  • Messaging on baggage status to be dispersed to all stakeholders (including arrival airports).
  • The use of individual ID tracking numbers.

What happens to lost items?

Each year Sydney airport auction their warehouse of unclaimed luggage and misplaced items left in the airport. Lots are divided into item type, from electronics and ipads, to alcohol and jewellery. Each lot stats at only $1, and all the money goes to charity, so there’s a chance to grab a bargain and do some good for the community.

Auctions usually take place in early November, with public viewings a day before so there’s still plenty of time to be involved in this year’s event.



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