Air travel has been a significant source of frustration for those looking to get away after years of restrictions kept them at home. Delays, cancellations, and lost luggage have plagued travelers this summer and will likely continue into the fall.
Knowing which airline to fly with, which airports to fly from, and tips for navigating the chaos may help travelers get through unscathed. But what about their bags? Recent data from The Department of Transportation (DOT) shed light on which U.S. airlines were the worst for mishandling luggage amid this year’s travel chaos.
Major 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 operator’s self-branded planes and its branded codeshare partners. (For example, Envoy Air, or American Eagle, is a branded codeshare partner of American Airlines.)
2019 Vs. 2022: Surprising Results
To get an idea of how bad 2022 has been, we’ll compare it to the last pre-pandemic year’s data, 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 wildly understaffed compared to before the pandemic. This led to the chaos we all witnessed this summer.
Surprisingly, several airlines performed better this year than they did in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Allegiant, Hawaiian, Frontier, and United all performed better this June than they did during the same period in 2019. This is based on mishandled bags per 1,000 bags enplaned. American, JetBlue, Delta, Spirit, and Southwest performed worse this June than in June 2019.
Top 6 Worst Performers For June 2022
- American Airlines – 11.3 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 108,095 Total Bags Mishandled
- JetBlue Airways – 7.5 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 9,672 Total Bags Mishandled
- United Airlines – 6.9 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 42,689 Total Bags Mishandled
- Delta Airlines – 5.6 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 47,502 Total Bags Mishandled
- Spirit Airlines – 5.6 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 6,737 Total Bags Mishandled
- Southwest Airlines – 5.5 Bags Per 1,000 Mishandled & 62,337 Total Bags Mishandled
Another surprising result of this comparison is how close the rates were between June 2019 and 2022. Of the airlines that performed worse in 2022, several were very close to their 2019 metrics. With the headlines practically screaming about lost luggage this summer, it’s surprising that the rates were nearly the same for many major airlines. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to add up. However, when you dig into the totals for mishandled bags, it becomes more apparent.
Mishandled Luggage Totals – Why Was This Year Worse?
In total, June 2022 was only about 3.9% worse than June 2019 regarding mishandled luggage. So what was all the fuss about this summer? Less than 4% may not sound like much, but that equates to an additional 10,655 mishandled bags for June 2022. Again, 10,655 may not sound like a large number compared to 283,713 pieces of mishandled luggage. However, the additional thousands of people affected this year by the increase probably feel differently.
Another factor to consider when comparing June 2022 to 2019 is the definition of mishandled luggage per the Department of Transportation; “The number of mishandled bags displayed in these tables represents the number of check bags that are lost, damaged, delayed, and pilfered, as reported by or on behalf of the passenger, that were in the airline’s custody for its reportable domestic nonstop scheduled passenger flights.”
Considering this, we can see a few reasons for this year’s significant increase in chaos and negative sentiment due to a relatively small increase in mishandled luggage. While the total number of mishandled bags may not be overwhelmingly large, this metric doesn’t consider how long travelers are waiting for their luggage to turn up. Piles of lost luggage, luggage turning up in dumpsters, and luggage ending up in cities that the owners have never been to have all been reported occurrences this summer.
The aftermath of lost luggage is much worse this year than in 2019. Thus, creating a massive difference in the perception of the problem. Even though the actual numbers have not increased exponentially, the issues travelers face due to lost luggage are worse than in 2019. If there was ever a year to avoid checking a bag, it’s this one. If travelers must check a bag, they should minimize the chances it will make it onto the DOT’s next report. As the summer season comes to an end, we can all hope that the aviation industry will improve the travel experience as it continues to recover from the pandemic.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com