Study: More lost bags in December and January; regional carriers worse

ATLANTA, Nov. 12, 2012 — As the level of travel increases with the start of the holiday, the number of lost bags will also rise, a new study suggests.

According to NerdWallet, the number of checked bags mishandled during the months of December and January “remains disproportionately high.” And, the study determined, regional carriers lose more bags than their mainline counterparts.

Between 2008 and 2011, mishandled luggage rates in January were 29-43 percent higher than the annual average, the site reported. Between 2008 and 2010, December saw mishandled baggage rates that were 30-35 percent higher than the annual average.

“The overall trend for mishandled baggage has declined in recent years,” said Alicia Jao, the VP of Travel Media. “Mishandled baggage is costly for airlines so investments in better systems and technology have contributed to improvements. Moreover, the high cost of checked baggage fees to consumers has reduced the number of baggage airlines have to handle.

“While the trend seems positive, numbers show that holiday months (December and January) tend to see more lost, damaged, delayed and stolen luggage,” Jao added. “With longer stays and/or more baggage (e.g. holiday presents), even savvy travelers are forced to check in luggage during the holidays. This increase in luggage can be challenging for airlines and may be a key contributor to higher rates of mishandled baggage.”

In terms of mishandled bags, NerdWallet singled out Fort Worth, Texas -based American Eagle Airlines as the worst offender. Orlando, Florida -based AirTran Airways had the best record.

Regional carriers generally don’t do as good a job as national ones, the study found.

“Regional airlines typically operate flights on behalf of larger airline brand or legacy carrier, such as United or Delta,” Jao said. “As such, high rates of mishandled baggage would not likely affect their brand or business. Thus, they may not be as incentivized to improve their service.”

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