When air traffic soared, so did airlines' mishandled-bag rate: Travel Weekly

The rate at which airlines globally mishandled bags increased 24% in 2021 as flyers returned to the skies, according to a report by aviation technology provider SITA. 

However, for 2021 at least, the mishandled-baggage rate remained significantly below the 2019 rate. 

“Airlines, ground handlers and airports have downsized to maintain business viability during the pandemic, which has impacted resources and expertise dedicated to baggage management,” SITA said. “Unaddressed, this challenge may see the mishandling rate continue to creep up and become much higher than it was pre-pandemic.”

SITA’s 2022 Baggage IT Insights found that airlines mishandled 4.35 checked bags per 1,000 last year, up from 3.5 checked bags per 1,000 in 2020. In 2019, the mishandling rate was 5.6 per 1,000. 

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Among the mishandled bags last year, 71% were delayed, 23% were damaged, and 6% were lost or stolen. To determine lost-baggage rates, SITA applies a weighting system utilizing IATA passenger traffic statistics and data from SITA’s WorldTracer global baggage tracking and matching system. 

For North America, the study found that the mishandled-baggage rate for 2021 was 5.07 bags per 1,000. That’s the same figure released in February by the DOT for U.S. carriers.

Through March of this year, the mishandled-baggage rate among U.S. carriers was 6.5 per 1,000, DOT data shows, up from 4.0 per thousand during the first three months of 2021.

American Airlines, with a mishandled rate of 8.6 bags per 1,000, was the poorest performing U.S. airline on baggage during the first quarter. Allegiant, which mishandled 1.7 bags per 1,000, was the best performer among the 10 largest U.S. carriers. 

SITA said that further automation and digitization of baggage checking, loading and tracking is key to reducing baggage-handling errors.

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