You can add lost luggage to the long list of problems plaguing air travelers in this summer of canceled flights, hours-long airport lines, and soaring ticket prices.
U.S. airlines are mishandling checked bags this year at a higher rate than before the pandemic hit, according to data from the Department of Transportation.
Out of every 1,000 bags checked, about seven get lost, delayed, or damaged—a figure that's up around 12% from the same period in 2019, reports the Wall Street Journal.
American Airlines has the worst record among major U.S. carriers, mishandling nine out of every 1,000 bags, while Allegiant Air (less than two bags per 1,000) leads the pack—a position the budget airline also held in 2021 (though as The Points Guy explains, it undoubtedly helps Allegiant's average that the airline doesn't do connecting flights).
Checked luggage woes could be even worse in Europe, where the worldwide surge in travel demand following the lifting of Covid restrictions, paired with airport staffing shortages, under-explained technical issues, and other catalysts of chaos have resulted in some pretty harrowing scenes.
Last week at London's Heathrow Airport, for instance, a "glitch" in the Terminal 2 baggage system resulted in hundreds of passengers leaving on flights without their bags, which were piled up outside the terminal as far as the eye could see.
"Mine's the black one," joked Twitter user Stuart Dempster.
Lost luggage has a final resting place perhaps….@HeathrowAirport T2…mine’s the black one (I think) pic.twitter.com/u0tDMTgFHj— Stuart Dempster (@StuDempster) June 17, 2022
And those same staffing shortages mean that when your bag finally does reach its destination city, there are fewer airport workers available to make deliveries.
Many travelers have reported wait times of up to a week, according to the New York Times, which spoke with a student who had traveled from Paris to London and didn't get her luggage for three days. When the bag finally showed up it was reeking of the cheese she had packed as a souvenir.
To avoid such frustrations, this is an excellent time to learn how to pack light. If it all possible, limit your belongings to what will fit in your carry-on luggage so that you won't have to check a bag, thus removing the airline's opportunities to lose your stuff.
Roll up your clothes. Pare your wardrobe to mix-and-match essentials you can rewear over the course of the trip. Coordinate with your traveling companions so that only one of you has to bring a curling iron. Make a bundle of sweaters and T-shirts and wear it as a neck pillow. Guard every millimeter of suitcase space with the territorial tenacity of an 8-year-old sharing the backseat of a Ford Taurus with a sibling.
If you do end up having to check a bag, make sure your carry-on is equipped with necessities to get you through the first few days of the trip in case the airline goofs.
And maybe go ahead and eat the Roquefort while you're still in France.