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Why and how do airlines misplace or lose your luggage in 2019?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

We’ve arrived in the future, or at least that’s exactly how modern life feels with all the technology around us. How is it possible to fly from Perth to London non-stop (that’s not even the longest flight in the world!) or to know exactly where your new set of headphones is and when it will arrive at your doorstep, but it’s still not possible for an airline to actually have luggage arrive at the same destination as the passenger it belongs to?

We’ll recognise though, that the logistics behind transporting more than 1.043 million passengers a year in the EU alone are already a crazy feat of engineering, administration, organisation and management. When one takes into account the number of passengers that fly around on a yearly basis, it’s easier to understand that some things may go wrong.

Why does luggage mishandling happen?

We’ll keep it simple, connecting flights are the reason why baggage gets lost or arrives at the wrong destination. There is almost no chance that your luggage will be mishandled if you are taking a direct flight to your destination. It’s worth mentioning that the situation regarding problematic baggage handling is getting better. In 2007, the total number of mishandled bags was 46.9 million; In 2018, there were 24.8 million incidents. This does not take into account the worldwide increase in passengers, so the reduction is considerable.

So, what are the reasons the pieces of luggage get misplaced?

As mentioned above, statistically speaking the reasons for the mishandling of your baggage will occur during a trip with a connecting flight. These are the reasons why it may happen:

Airports using different technologies

Mindboggling, but there are some airports all around the world that still use pen and paper to sort out luggage and determine where that green Louis Vitton suitcase should go. For the people working at those airports, it’s impossible to read a barcode because they simply do not have the scanners necessary. That means that they need to locate the flight number, destination, passenger, etc. themselves and redirect all the baggage manually. This creates a lot of opportunities for the next culprit to present itself: human error.

why are airlines still losing bags and suitcases in 2019

Human error: someone grabbed the wrong suitcase!

Even at the most technologically-advanced airports, human error can occur. That means that someone typed in the incorrect three-letter ICAO code (or was it the IATA code? You see! It’s all very confusing) for your airport of arrival. If you were flying to LHR, your luggage can end up in LRH. La Rochelle is not that far away from London so your suitcase will only need to jump the English Channel to be reunited with you.There’s also one more case in which human error can mess up your trip! Perhaps another passenger mistakenly took your bag. Yes, this happens very, very often. And finally, perhaps a baggage handler that hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before made a mistake and your luggage went on a different holiday than the one you spent 2 weeks planning. To err is to be human. And also, better them than the air traffic controllers, right?

Short connecting times between flights

Yep, this has been a problem for a very long time. Even if everything else goes the way it’s supposed to, it is possible that you’ll make your connection but your luggage will be left behind. Why? Because sorting out all the bags and suitcases in the cargo area and figuring out where they need to go is a little bit more complicated than having passengers themselves determine where the gate for their next flight is. You can make it from one gate to the other in 20 mins; your bags, probably not. This happens especially when flights have been delayed and you have to make a run for it. If you've missed it, don't worry too much, we also have you covered with a nifty guide on what to do when you've missed your connecting flight.

Different luggage handling companies at airports

This reason is very similar to the first one. Sometimes, airports provide baggage handling themselves. In other occasions, airlines are in charge of everything. This means that very often, two or three different companies will have to sort out your bag and put it on the correct conveyor belt for it to reach your final destination.

It’s quite the complex topic you see, but IATA is working on standardising all procedures and airlines are investing greatly in finding solutions to their luggage issues. Why? Because it’s still very expensive for them when a suitcase ends up in the wrong place and they have to fly it to where it belongs and deliver it to the correct passenger. It takes a huge amount of effort to mend the wrong and, by the time one receives the missing piece of luggage, one is probably very angry at the airline. Solving the problem could save the industry up to three billion dollars!

Can luggage get stolen or lost?

Unfortunately, it does happen. There is a slim possibility that your suitcase might get lost (forever) or that someone with criminal intent will take it. However, don’t cancel your flight just yet. Lost or stolen luggage makes up a mere 5% of all mishandled baggage. One reason for the luggage getting lost is that passengers simply forget about it and remember once it’s too late.

If one of your suitcases belongs to the 25 million pieces of luggage that are mishandled per year, it will eventually find its way back to you, probably.

Flight delays and cancellations are as annoying as misplaced luggage. However, you can claim compensation!

Yes, it’s true. Broadly speaking, if you’ve arrived at your final destination with a delay greater than three hours (two if your flight has been cancelled) you are entitled to claim compensation if you were flying within or from Europe or if you were flying with a European carrier. You may receive up to 600 euros, depending on the distance covered by your flight(s). You can check your flight for free with our compensation calculator to find out immediately how much money you may be owed.

Check my flight

After you’ve checked your flight, you can decide if you want us to take care of claiming your compensation. Under our no win, no fee basis, you’ll only have to pay our 25% win fee if we actually manage to get you compensated. Best of all, our fee covers all possible expenses, even if we have to sue the airline! We’ll make sure that the airline pays you what you’re owed.

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