Worst UK airlines and airports for losing your luggage – and how to avoid

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Travelling by plane is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to get around the world, but every now and then passengers find themselves faced with unexpected bumps along the way. 

One of the most common issues passengers seem to face is lost or delayed luggage. Thousands of passengers every year arrive at their destination to find their possessions did not make the journey. 

While there is little that can be done to avoid this unfortunate situation, new research has revealed that there are some UK airports where lost or damaged luggage is a common occurrence.

Bag storage company Bounce has analysed lost luggage on flights to and from the UK between 2018 and 2022 by sending a Freedom of Information request to the Civil Aviation Authority to find out which are the worst offenders.

They revealed the five worst airlines and airports for losing luggage in the UK.

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Five worst airlines for lost luggage on UK flights

  1. Ryanair – 12.77 percent of lost baggage cases
  2. Iberia – 8.85 percent of lost baggage cases
  3. Vueling Airlines – 6.59 percent of lost baggage cases
  4. Royal Air Maroc – 5.66 percent of lost baggage cases
  5. Qatar Airways – 5.12 percent of lost baggage cases

The airline with the most lost luggage cases on UK flights was Ryanair. This is the “biggest budget airline in Europe”, with 192 cases between 2018 and 2022. The airline is one of the most controversial on the list, often facing criticism for its “extra charges, poor customer service, and working conditions”.

In second place is Iberia, the flagship airline of Spain, which saw 133 cases referred to the CAA in the last five years. Iberia is based in Madrid and has been operating since 1927, it became a part of the International Airlines Group in 2011, after a merger agreement with British Airways. 

Vueling Airlines is up next, Spain’s largest airline by both number of aircraft and number of destinations. The airline which is also part of the International Airlines Group, had 99 cases of lost luggage over the previous five years.

Coming in first place last year, the airline Royal Air Maro is now the fourth worst airline for lost luggage on UK flights, with Qatar Airways following closely behind.

Research showed that from airports in the UK, Heathrow statistically lost the most luggage, while two other London airports made the top five.

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Five worst airports for lost luggage on UK flights

  1. London Heathrow – 49.68 percent of mishandled baggage cases
  2. London Gatwick – 17.74 percent of mishandled baggage cases
  3. Manchester – 16.13 percent of mishandled baggage cases
  4. London Stansted – 8.87 percent of mishandled baggage cases
  5. Birmingham – 5.24 percent of mishandled baggage cases

By far the airport with the most cases of lost luggage was London Heathrow, at 465. Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe, so it stands to reason that the odd case would go missing. In fact, three of the top ten airports for lost luggage were found in the English capital.

Another London airport came in second place, with 166 cases of luggage being lost in the last five years at Gatwick. Located just outside of Central London, near Crawley, Gatwick is the second busiest airport in the country and the tenth busiest in Europe.

The non-London airport with the most baggage loss cases and the third most overall was Manchester, with 151 cases reported to the CAA in the last five years. Being the UK’s busiest airport outside of the capital and the third busiest in the whole of the UK, Manchester saw just under 23 million passengers in 2022.

Cody, CEO and Founder at Bounce, has shared his top tips for passengers who find themselves dealing with lost luggage.

Report missing luggage immediately

As soon as passengers realise their luggage is missing, they need to find their airline’s representative and file a claim with them before they leave the airport. Cody said: “If you can’t find a representative, source their contact information and give them a call. You will be asked to file a lost baggage report and provide a description of the colour, make and model of your luggage. 

“If you don’t hear back from the airline after three days, it’s best to update your claim with more specific details about the contents of your bags.”

Have luggage delivered

After reporting lost luggage, most airlines will deliver it to you for free if it’s found, although this isn’t always the case, so make sure to clarify this from the outset. Exchange contact details with the airline and ask for a tracking number to check up on the delivery of your bags. 

Ask for a refund

If the airline has lost the luggage, then they may be able to refund checked baggage fees. Cody claimed: “Airlines have 21 days to return your lost luggage, although you can make a claim for delayed luggage if they get it to you within this time. If they haven’t delivered your bags within 21 days, you can claim for lost luggage.”

Keep receipts

For those going to be without luggage for a while, they’ll need to replace items like clothing, toiletries and other essentials to keep them going until they get it back. If this is the case, keep hold of all receipts to be fully reimbursed. 

To make a claim for lost luggage more likely to be approved, make sure to check what the airline considers reasonable or necessary expenses and only replace what has been lost. 

Double-check insurance policy

Different insurance policies will have different coverage so be sure to check whether the travel insurance covers lost luggage or not. If not, it may even be worth checking the homeowner’s insurance, or the credit card used to book the flight, as these sometimes have lost luggage benefits too. 

Check the luggage

Hopefully, passengers will be able to recover their lost luggage and when they do, check it thoroughly for damage and make sure the contents are intact too. If anything is amiss, the airline should be able to replace any lost or damaged items.

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