These US airlines were the worst for mishandled luggage amid travel chaos

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Air travel has been a significant source of frustration for those looking to leave after years of restrictions kept them at home. Delays, cancellations and lost luggage have plagued travelers this summer and are likely to continue into the fall.

Knowing which airline to fly with, which airports to fly from, and tips for navigating the chaos can help travelers make it through unscathed. But what about their bags? The latest data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) sheds light on which US airlines were the worst for baggage mishandling amid this year’s travel chaos.

Sorted luggage at an airport

The main airlines considered were; American Airlines Network, Alaska Airlines Network, Allegiant Air, Delta Airlines Network, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Jetblue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines Network. “Networks” include the carrier’s own-brand aircraft and its code-share brand partners. (For example, Envoy Air, or American Eagle, is a codeshare partner of American Airlines.)

American Eagle Airplane

2019 vs. 2022: Surprising results

To get an idea of ​​how bad 2022 has been, we’ll compare it to the last year before the pandemic, 2019. This year saw a massive increase in travel demand as the world reopened its borders after years of restrictions . Unfortunately, the aviation industry as a whole is understaffed compared to before the pandemic. This led to the chaos we all witnessed this summer.

2019 vs 2022 for mishandled baggage, bar chart
Data source: Department of Transport

Surprisingly, some airlines performed better this year than in the year before the pandemic in 2019. Allegiant, Hawaiian, Frontier and United all performed better this June than during the same period in 2019. This is based on mishandled baggage per 1,000 bags of planned. American, JetBlue, Delta, Spirit and Southwest performed worse this June than in June 2019.

American Airlines plane taking off

The 6 worst performers for June 2022

  1. American Airlines – 11.3 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 108,095 total mishandled bags
  2. JetBlue Airways – 7.5 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 9,672 total mishandled bags
  3. United Airlines – 6.9 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 42,689 total mishandled bags
  4. Delta Airlines – 5.6 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 47,502 total mishandled bags
  5. Spirit Airlines – 5.6 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 6,737 total mishandled bags
  6. Southwest Airlines – 5.5 bags per 1,000 mishandled bags and 62,337 total mishandled bags
jet blue plane

Another surprising result of this comparison is how close fares were between June 2019 and 2022. Of the worst-performing airlines in 2022, some were very close to their 2019 metrics. With headlines practically screaming about lost baggage this summer, it’s surprising that fares were about the same for many major airlines. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to add up. However, when you dig into the total number of mishandled bags, it becomes more apparent.

People on the baggage carousel

Total Mishandled Baggage – Why Was This Year Worse?

In total, June 2022 was only about 3.9% worse than June 2019 in terms of mishandled baggage. So what was all the fuss about this summer? Less than 4% may not sound like a lot, but that equates to an additional 10,655 pieces of mishandled luggage for June 2022. Again, 10,655 may not sound like a large number compared to 283,713 pieces of mishandled luggage. However, the thousands of other people affected this year by the increase probably feel differently.

baggage carousel

Another factor to consider when comparing June 2022 to 2019 is the Department of Transportation’s definition of mishandled baggage; “The number of mishandled baggage displayed in these charts represents the number of checked baggage that has been lost, damaged, delayed and stolen, as reported by or on behalf of the passenger, that was in the custody of the airline for its domestic passenger on scheduled non-stop. flights.”

lost luggage

With this in mind, we can see several reasons for the significant increase in chaos and negative sentiment this year due to a relatively small increase in mishandled luggage. While the total number of mishandled bags may not be extremely large, this metric does not take into account how long travelers wait for their luggage to show up. Piles of lost luggage, luggage ending up in dumpsters, and luggage ending up in cities the owners have never been to have all been reported incidents this summer.

checked baggage

The consequences of lost luggage are much worse this year than in 2019. Thus, creating a massive change in the perception of the problem. Although the actual numbers haven’t increased exponentially, the problems travelers face due to lost luggage are worse than in 2019. If there was ever a year to avoid checking a bag, this is it. If travelers must check a bag, they should minimize the chances of it making it to the next DOT report. With the summer season winding down, we can all hope that the aviation industry will improve the travel experience as it continues to recover from the pandemic.

This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest news that will impact your next trip, please visit:

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