Booking Strategy

The Airline Most Likely to Lose Your Bag

There may not be a more disheartening experience than showing up to your destination, heading down to the baggage claim, and waiting, waiting, waiting … until the crowd thins, the barren carousel whirrs softly to a halt, and your bag is nowhere to be seen. Reality hits: The airline lost your bag. And instead of shuttling to your resort and hitting the pool, you’re off to customer service not knowing if you’ll ever see that new bathing suit again.

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The truth is, lost baggage is a relatively rare occurrence. Collectively, airlines “mishandled” 4.68 bags for every 1,000 passengers in November 2019, the most recent month for which data is available. That’s not a lot. But the impact of those lost bags on travelers can be significant. Beyond a missing bathing suit, checked bags can include important medical equipment, materials for a business trip, or other valuable items. (It should be said, we generally advise against packing anything valuable in your checked bag for this exact reason.)

The Worst Airlines for Lost Luggage

All that said, some airlines are better than others at transporting your baggage from point A to point B. took a look at this BTS data over a year, and ranked airlines based on their lost luggage performance. The full rankings are here (along with rankings for other performance metrics) but there are some interesting highlights:

When you  look at the worst airlines for lost luggage relative to their size (the rate at which they lost luggage), four of the five worst performers were smaller regional carriers: Envoy Air, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airways, and PSA Airlines. The other airline in the bottom five was American, and United came in sixth.

The airline with the most mishandled bags overall is Southwest, with a  lost luggage figure of over 40,000 during this time period. However, Southwest’s rate of mishandled bags was pretty average due to the fact that Southwest also operates more flights than anyone else on the list.

The airline with the fewest mishandled bags was Allegiant, with Frontier, Hawaiian, Alaska, and Delta rounding up the top five best performers.

Readers, has an airline ever lost your bag? Share your story in the comments below.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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