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A New Record for the Airlines: More Lost Bags

by Jack Penning

Posted on October 6, 2006 at 3:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:45 PM

A dubious distinction for the nation's airlines, as the Department of Transportation reports they lost more bags in August than in any other month in history. The grand total for bags lost: 437,000. It breaks the old record of 432,000 bags lost, in December of 2004. It works out to about 14,000 bags lost everyday. And it means you have, roughly, a 1-in-100 chance of having your checked-bags lost the next time you fly.

The reason behind the poor performance is likely tied to security changes. When the Transportation Security Administration banned liquids on-board aircraft a couple of months ago, the number of people checking-on bags jumped by 20%. The airlines weren't prepared for that kind of extra baggage. The DOT reports it caused lost bags to jump by 33% over August of 2005.

Here's a look at how airlines that fly to and from Portland rank, with the number of bags lost, per-thousand:

1) Hawaiian Air, 3.1/1000
2) Northwest Airlines, 6.8/1000
3) Continental Airlines, 6.2/1000
4) Frontier Airlines, 6.3/1000
5) jetBlue Airways, 6.7/1000
6) Southwest Airlines, 6.7/1000
7) American Airlines, 6.9/1000
8) United Airlines, 7.3/1000
9) Alaska Airlines, 8.0/1000
10) Delta Air Lines, 8.0/1000
** National Average **, 8.1/1000
11) US Airways, 10.3/1000

There are three essential things I do, everytime I fly, to try and ensure my bags don't get lost. I went over these on our 6pm newscast on Friday.

1) I always try to book a long connection time. 30 or 45-minutes just isn't enough time for the airline to get your bag from your first flight to your next. I try to book - minimum - an hour and a half... and I prefer two-hours. This also works well if your first flight is delayed. It gives you a little "breathing room" to make sure your bags can catch-up with you at your connecting point.

2) Check in early. No... I don't think you really have to check-in two-hours in advance for a domestic US flight. But an hour and a half should be the rule... to make sure the handlers have enough time to get your bag from the check-in desk to the plane.

3) Always check your luggage tags. Not the one with your address. The one the airline puts on... to show where it's going. You might not know all those three-letter airport codes, but the airline prints the destination of the bag right below the code. Make sure it jives, not only with your final destination, but also your connecting city.

I find, if I do those three things, my bags almost always get to my destination with me.

Here's the latest Air Travel Consumer Report from the DOT. It includes all the stats I've been talking about... along with information about delays, cancellations, and complaints.

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