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Lost luggage drops to 10-year low, report finds

March 26, 2014 at 3:35 PM ET

For fliers who constantly complain about shrinking seat size, rising food prices and lengthier boarding times, there is at least one area where the flying experience is improving.

The number of mishandled bags decreased 17.2 percent to 21.8 million bags worldwide in 2013, says a new report from industry IT specialist SITA.

Image: suitcases
Uncredited / ASSOCIATED PRESS
In 2013, the total number of mishandled bags decreased 17.2 percent to 21.8 million, according to a new report.

On a more recognizable scale, this means the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers dropped from 8.83 to 6.96 in one year. The improvement is even better when tracked over 10 years. SITA recorded 13.15 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers in 2003.

Mishandled bags are more likely to be delayed than damaged, lost or stolen. Delayed bags accounted for 81.2 percent of all mishandled bags, damaged and pilfered bags account for 15.5 percent, and lost or stolen bags account for 3.3 percent.

This is good news for the entire aviation industry, which cut costs incurred from mishandled bags to $2.09 billion in 2013 from $2.6 billion in 2012.

Mishandling cost reached its peak at $4.22 billion in 2007 and the industry has since made several improvements, including increased tracking and barcode scanning, aimed at lowering the financial burden and improving the customer experience.

Despite several improvements, passengers with at least one connection are the most likely to arrive without their bag. Almost half, or 45 percent, of all delayed bags come from transfer flights.

Efforts aimed at improving the chronic issue include smart bag systems that ensure “hot bags” with a 45-minute turnaround are loaded off the plane first.

— Samantha Shankman, Skift

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