Every year, thousands of checked bags end up at a destination different than that of their owners. While most luggage goes to the right place, a fraction of bags end up either temporarily misplaced, or (in some cases) completely lost. Which airlines are most likely to lose that checked luggage?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps meticulous statistics on how many bags go missing for every 1,000 flyers on a particular airline.
According to the 2015 Annual Report, the most likely suspects may not be mishandling the most passenger luggage. Here are the airlines that mishandled the most luggage in 2015.
1. Envoy Air: 8.52 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers
Envoy Air, once known as American Eagle, landed at the top of the DOT list for mishandled luggage in 2015. One of the products of the merger between US Airways and American Airlines, Envoy air has since been moved to a single ticketing and and luggage handling process. However, Envoy Air still mishandled over 101,000 bags through the course of the year.
There is good news for frequent flyers who travel on Envoy Air. In 2014, the common carrier mishandled 9.02 bags per every 1,000 passengers aboard their airline. As the airline becomes better aligned to serve passengers, the number of mishandled luggage will hopefully go down.
2. ExpressJet Airlines: 5.06 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers
At first glance, you may have never heard of ExpressJet.
In reality, This regional carrier may be one of the biggest airlines you never realized. This carrier specializes in operating regional flights branded as American, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines flights. The regional carrier is also responsible for mishandling nearly five bags for every 1,000 passengers aboard the carrier.
Because of the sheer number of flights operated to smaller airports across the United States and the transfer of custody, there are more opportunities to mishandle luggage. However, ExpressJet also improved their mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers compared year over year. Between 2014 and 2015, ExpressJet received over 36,000 less mishandled baggage reports.
3. SkyWest: 4.05 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers
ExpressJet was not the only regional carrier to experience a number of lost luggage. Sister carrier SkyWest Airlines also experienced a high number of mishandled bags. SkyWest operates thousands of flights daily for Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, and United along the eastern half of the American continent. In 2015 alone, over 28 million flyers boarded a flight operated by SkyWest Airliones..
However, the airline also experienced a high number of lost luggage as well. In 2015, the airline received over 117,000 reports of mishandled luggage, breaking down to 4.05 mishandled bags per 1,000 travelers. This number has also decreased compared to 2014, when the airline flew a similar number of passengers, but mishandled 4.69 bags per 1,000 passengers.
How the major air carriers rank
Possibly counter-intuitive to many travelers experiences, mainstream carriers in the United States fared better than their regional counterparts.
Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier in the United States by passengers, received 3.31 mishandled baggage reports per 1,000 carriers flown in 2015. However, the airline still mishandled over 478,000 bags entrusted to them.
Delta, the second largest airline by domestic passengers, received over 245,000 mishandled luggage reports in 2015, braking down to 2.08 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers. United flew over 72 million passengers, and received 231,501 mishandled baggage reports, or 3.21 reports per 1,000 passengers.
Of the legacy and major carriers, American ranked the worst, similar to their regional arm Envoy Air. The DOT reports the airline received 386,649 mishandled baggage reports after flying over 97 million passengers - which breaks down to nearly four bags lost per every 1,000 passengers boarding their aircraft.
Although travelers can't do much to protect their luggage from mishandling, travelers do have some avenues of recourse available to them. From knowing airline policies, to purchasing travel insurance, travelers can prepare themselves for the possibility of lost luggage when flying on one of the above carriers.