19 Lost Luggage Statistics to Make You Want to Pack Light


Lost Luggage Statistics

You’re still waiting on your luggage, aren’t you? Yeah, we thought so. We’ve been there, too—it’s the worst. In fact, in 2021, about 1,941,000 reports were filed by U.S. airline passengers who were victims of lost or delayed baggage. That’s a lot of people! But if you think about it, it’s not really surprising: There are a lot of people flying around the world these days, and lots of them have baggage (literally).

But don’t worry! We love statistics and we’re here to help you out. We love being able to quantify the things our customers are so concerned with (and the things we’re concerned with, too). In this post, we’ve put together the latest lost luggage statistics that we hope you’ll find as helpful and informative as we do!

How many people have lost their luggage? What are the best ways to avoid losing your luggage? What can you do if your luggage is lost? Let’s dive in!

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Disheartening Lost Luggage Statistics (Editor’s Picks)

  • In 2021, 1.94 million bags were mishandled in the US.
  • Delta Air Lines had the least percentage of mishandled bags between 2012 and 2018.
  • 6.3 million luggage bags were lost or mishandled in 2020 globally.
  • In 2020, there was 3.5 lost or mishandled luggage globally per 1,000 passengers.
  • Asia’s luggage mishandling rate in 2020 was only 1.15 per 1,000 passengers.
  • Delayed bags make up 69% of mishandled bags in 2020.
  • An estimated 27% of mishandled bags were damaged in 2020.

 

United States Lost Luggage Statistics

1. In 2021, a total of 1.94 million bags were mishandled by US airlines.

(Statista)

The good news is that more people got their luggage in 2021 than in 2019.

In 2021, 1.94 million bags were mishandled by airlines in the U.S.—a decrease from 2.8 million mishandled bags reported in 2019.

Although this may sound like a lot of bags to you, it is important to note that the number of mishandled bags has generally been decreasing since 2007 when there were 4.4 million mishandled bags. In 1990, the number of mishandled bags was 2.66 million.

While this number has been decreasing, it might still be too high for your comfort. To ensure you do not have to be one of these statistics, please make sure that your bag is clearly labeled with your name and destination, and keep your baggage tickets on hand during your travels so that if your bag does go astray, you can easily get it back.

 

2. The odds of an airline mishandling your luggage in the US is around 0.4%.

(LuggageHero)

Bag mishandling is an issue that has been plaguing airports and airlines for years.

LuggageHero looked into the luggage mishandling problem in the US for the first half of 2021. They found that of the 158 million bags that were boarded during this period, 692,884 were mishandled. Of this, only a small percentage is actually lost, and more often than not, lost luggage is found and returned to its owner within two days.

As a passenger, the statistics can be concerning when you’re traveling by air. However, it’s important to know that the number of mishandled bags has decreased over time and that it’s unlikely you will be one of the unlucky few who have their baggage misplaced or lost entirely during your trip. The odds are in your favor!

 

3. Between 1990 and 2021, 2020 was the year with the least number of mishandled bags.

(Statista)

860,000 bags were lost, damaged, or delayed in 2020. This was the year with the least number of mishandled bags. Some reasons for this are that there were fewer flights and passengers that year due to restrictions implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there were also fewer long-haul flights.

On the other hand, 2007 was the year with the most number of mishandled luggage, reaching 4.4 million that year.

 

4. Between 2012 and 2018, Envoy Air was the worst US airline when it comes to mishandling luggage.

(Forbes)

The said airline mishandled 6.76 bags per 1,000 that were enplaned. During this period, smaller airlines performed the worst in handling their passengers’ luggage. For example, for every 1,000 passengers, Skywest Airlines mishandled 6 bags and ExpressJet Airlines mishandled 5.9 bags.

 

5. Delta Air Lines had the least percentage of mishandled bags between 2012 and 2018.

(Forbes)

This major US airline that’s headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia had a mishandled luggage rate of 1.55 bags for every 1,000 passengers. Next in line as some of the best-performing US airlines were Frontier Airlines (1.8 bags), Spirit Airlines (1.9 bags), Hawaiian Airlines (2 bags), JetBlue Airways (2 bags), and United Airlines (2.9 bags).

 

6. The latest monthly data shows that 195,084 bags were mishandled in the US.

(Department of Transportation)

In October 2021, a total of 36,958,838 bags were enplaned, and 195,084 were reported as mishandled. This includes bags that are lost, damaged, or delayed. For every 1,000 bags that were enplaned that month, 5.28 were mishandled.

There is an increase from 2019 when only 3.52 bags were mishandled for every 1,000 that were enplaned. This is equivalent to 63,151 mishandled bags out of 17,925,929 bags enplaned in 2019.

 

7. In October 2021, American Airlines mishandled 7.94 bags per 1,000 passengers.

(Department of Transportation)

The latest statistics show that of all the major operating airlines that month, American Airlines had the highest percentage of mishandled luggage. Of the 5,417,841 bags enplaned by the airline, 43,035 were lost, damaged, or delayed. Envoy Air was second in line, with 7.71 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

 

Global Lost Luggage Statistics

8. In 2020, 6.3 million luggage bags were lost or mishandled around the world.

(SITA)

Isn’t it always the worst when you’re waiting at baggage claim and you’re the only one without a bag? It’s almost like every single person in line is staring at you in pity.

It’s even worse if you’re traveling for work or to see a loved one and all your clothes are in that bag. You can’t show up to the office or family dinner in your sweatpants.

But if you’ve ever had this experience, don’t worry—you’re not alone.

In 2020, 6.3 million luggage bags were lost or mishandled globally. This shows an 87% reduction from 2007 when a whopping 46.9 million bags was lost or mishandled even though there were only 2.48 billion passengers that year.

Year by Year Baggage Mishandling Globally

To better understand this, you must know that there’s a difference between “mishandled” and “lost.” “Mishandled” is a broader term that covers everything from being sent to the wrong city to just being late. A lot of mishandled baggage ends up being delayed or misplaced—not actually lost.

When we hear statistics like these, the first thing we ask is “what can be done?” If we look at why so many luggage bags go missing and what travelers can do about it, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your luggage heads where you head:

  • Get a packing system that makes your luggage easy to pick out of a crowd.
  • Use a tracking system so you know exactly where your bag is at all times (and perhaps most importantly—where it is NOT).
  • Use a tamper-resistant lock; this will help prevent theft and inform you when someone has opened your bag without authorization.

The International Air Transport Association predicts that the number of passengers on flights will likely return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. I guess we’ll see how airlines fare by then with how they handle their passengers’ luggage.

 

9. In 2020, there was 3.5 lost or mishandled luggage per 1,000 passengers.

(SITA)

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve experienced the sheer terror of watching your luggage go around and around in that carousel after your flight lands. It’s like you’re thinking: “Oh my god, how do I keep this thing from disappearing? What if it gets lost? What if I never see it again?”

Well, it turns out that out of every 1000 passengers, 3.5 passengers experienced exactly that kind of panic in 2020—and for good reason. 

There was a 60.5% year-on-year decrease in passengers that year. In 2019, there were 4.54 billion passengers on flights, while in 2020, that number went down to 1.80 billion. This decrease in passengers and flights contributed to the 37.5% year-on-year decrease in lost or mishandled luggage in 2020.

If you’re someone who has flown with luggage recently, chances are good you’ll be affected by at least one instance of mishandled baggage. Airlines have been doing everything they can to improve their baggage handling processes and track down missing luggage, but there’s still room for improvement—we’d all like to see those numbers come down!

 

10. There was a 37.5% year-on-year decrease in lost or mishandled luggage from 2019 to 2020.

(SITA)

In 2019, 5.6 bags were lost or mishandled per 1,000 passengers. This shows a significant decrease when it reached only 3.5 in 2020. In 2019, the number of lost or mishandled luggage per 1,000 passengers was a little higher, at 5.69. To put things into perspective, there were 4.36 billion passengers that year.

 

11. In Europe, the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers decreased from 16.60 in 2007 to 4.61 in 2020.

(Finder)

Europe pales in comparison to Asia and the US when it comes to handling luggage on flights. However, the region has finally been doing something to correct this previously huge problem.

In just a year, the mishandling rate in the region decreased by 13%, from 8.06 lost or mishandled bags in 2018 to 6.94 in 2017. From 2008 to 2018, the mishandled luggage rate in Europe decreased by 58%, which is quite impressive.

 

12. Asia’s luggage mishandling rate in 2020 was only 1.15 per 1,000 passengers.

(SITA)

While Europe struggled with luggage mishandling since 2007, Asia was ending the year with only 3.05 lost or mishandled luggage per 1,000 passengers. This figure is pretty impressive, even better than North America’s rate of 7.05 that same year. Meanwhile, in 2020, Asia has the least number of mishandled luggage among these three continents.

According to the Director of Industry and Regulatory Affairs of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, technology plays a huge role in the improvement of baggage handling in Asia.

 

13. 97% of lost luggage is found and returned to its owner within two days.

(Student Universe)

Have you ever been on a vacation and suffered the agony of waiting in the airport baggage claim, only to find out that your suitcases never made it onto the plane? Or perhaps you’ve arrived home from a trip and your bags were nowhere in sight. It’s heartbreaking—your clothes, your toiletries, that souvenir you picked up at the gift shop on a layover… it’s all just gone!

But did you know that 97% of lost luggage is found and returned to its owner within two days? That means there is still hope! You’ll be reunited with your belongings in no time.

This figure was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Recently, it’s been taking airlines longer to track lost luggage, taking anywhere from a few days to sometimes up to a week.

There are numerous reasons why it’s taking a long time for lost luggage to be returned. The label might have come off, it could’ve been sent to the wrong destination, or it could even have been stolen by someone.

 

14. 66% of airlines are planning to implement contactless methods to report mishandled luggage.

(SITA)

In order to remedy long lines at baggage counters, a majority of airlines want to implement contactless ways to report instances of luggage mishandling, which can be done from the passenger’s mobile device.

This method will also ensure that quick action will be taken since reporting will be made easier and faster. Self-service technologies like this will help airlines implement a faster and more automated journey for their passengers.

 

Breakdown of Mishandled Luggage

15. Delayed bags made up 69% of mishandled bags in 2020.

(SITA)

Delays remain the top reason why bags are mishandled in airports. However, it should be noted that in 2020 there was a 6% decrease from 2019.

Flight transfers pose the greatest risk in handling bags and are where most of the mishandling happens. Bad weather also causes airlines to take some time to transport your baggage from the plane to the claim area.

 

16. In 2020, 27% of mishandled bags were damaged.

(SITA)

The number of damaged or pilfered bags saw an increase from the previous year. So, what luggage components are covered? Well, that would be handles, straps, wheels, and other problems like having holes or cracks on the bag.

If you notice that your luggage is damaged, file a report at the airline’s baggage counter at the airport before you leave.

 

17. Of the 6.3 million mishandled bags in 2020, only 4% were reported lost.

(SITA)

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a hard year for the airline industry. With international travel down by over 75%, airlines have had to cancel flights, lay off employees, and even file for bankruptcy.

But here’s some good news: lost luggage rates are down! In fact, of the 6.3 million mishandled bags in 2020, only 4% were reported lost. This means the lost luggage rate saw a decrease of 1% from 2019.

The reason for this decline is unclear at this time, but we’re hoping it’s a sign that luggage handlers are taking extra care with our bags these days as they struggle to keep jobs in this difficult economic climate.

To prevent the loss of luggage, you can take some steps. First of all, you can put a microchip or tag on your luggage to help in identifying it. You can also fill out the identification card that’s provided on your suitcase. Upon checking in, you should also ensure that the tag is printed correctly with the appropriate destination airport. Lastly, take a picture of your suitcase so you can easily show it to the airline in case of loss.

We know things have been rough lately, but this might be one silver lining to look forward to: less lost luggage!

 

Reasons for Lost or Delayed Luggage

18. Mishandling during transfers remains the number one reason for lost or delayed luggage.

(SITA)

Around 37% of bags lost or delayed in transit are due to mishandling during flight transfers. This percentage saw a decrease from 45% in 2019, so it’s not all bad. However, it should be noted that one reason for this decrease is the reduction of long-haul flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

19. 20% of mishandled baggage happens because the baggage itself was not loaded on the plane.

(SITA)

While transfer mishandling decreased in 2020, failure to load saw an increase, along with bag switches and ticketing errors (19%), tagging errors (6%), and weather conditions (10%).

 

Related Questions (FAQ)

How often does checked baggage get lost?

For every 1,000 airport passengers, 3.5 bags are mishandled. This figure in 2020 shows a continuous decline amidst reduce workforces at airlines and airports worldwide. This reduction in lost and mishandled bags can be attributed to fewer flights and passengers and reduced long-haul flights.

 

What percentage of luggage gets lost?

Of the 3.5 mishandled bags per 1,000 airport passengers in 2020, 4% are considered lost or stolen. This saw a reduction of 1% from 2019. Additionally, 69% of mishandled bags are considered delayed, and 27% have been damaged. The percentage of damaged bags increased from its 2019 figure.

 

Do airlines usually find lost luggage?

If your bag doesn’t reach your destination when you do, don’t worry. Statistics show that 97% of lost luggage eventually finds its way to its owner within two days. This is because airlines are fairly quick in locating lost luggage and getting it on the next flight to your location.

 

How long does it take for lost luggage to be returned?

It usually takes airlines 24 to 48 hours to locate any lost luggage in previous years. However, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, airlines are taking longer to track down lost luggage. In fact, the process takes a few days to a week nowadays.

 

How do airlines handle lost luggage?

Airlines will always do their best to locate any lost luggage. They have tracking systems in place to know your luggage’s location and estimated arrival time. If they’re unable to track your luggage within a certain time frame or if they permanently lose it, you will be compensated or reimbursed.

 

How do I deal with lost luggage?

When an airline loses your luggage, the first thing you should do is go to the baggage desk and file a claim. Also, provide a delivery address since many airlines will deliver your luggage for free. Sometimes, you can track your bag via their website or an app.

 

Conclusion

Well, that’s all for today! We hope you have enjoyed our little compilation of the most interesting lost luggage statistics from around the world.

Thanks for joining us on this journey! We’ve looked at the lost baggage numbers, and we’ve seen that there are plenty of ways to improve your chances of keeping your luggage out of the land of lost suitcases.

Of course, it’s important to remember that even if you do everything right, sometimes your luggage will still be lost. The most important thing is to have a plan in place for when that happens.

Tracking your luggage is a great first step. This way, you can know if something’s gone wrong before you even get off the plane—and you won’t have to deal with the unknown.

Thanks again for reading, and see you next time!

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