24% of Luggage Was 'Mishandled' by Airlines Last Year, According to a Report

Staffing shortages contributed to this.

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Following a tumultuous 2020 for travel, airlines began to rebound last year. Unfortunately, the resurgence has overwhelmed carriers and caused an influx in snafus, especially amid ongoing staffing shortages.

According to a recent study by aviation tech company SITA, 24% of luggage was damaged, delayed, lost, or stolen in 2021. An increase in international flights has only contributed to the problem, and in total, 4.35 bags per thousand passengers were "mishandled." 

"The industry now needs to do more with less. As we emerge from the pandemic, our customers' focus remains on safely managing the end-to-end transport of passengers' baggage, but now they must also reduce the total cost and training required," SITA CEO David Lavorel said in a statement. "There is significant pressure to increase operational efficiency, which is accelerating digitalization." 

The report states that 71% of mishandled baggage resulted from delays. This issue was driven further by flight connections, which is hardly a surprise considering luggage problems are 4.7% more likely on international routes. Meanwhile, lost or stolen bags accounted for 6% overall, and damaged bags accounted for 23% of the study.

Regional flyer Envoy Air was the biggest offender, while American Airlines trailed shortly behind. That makes a lot more sense when you realize American Airlines owns Envoy. Allegiant, however, was the least likely to lose baggage.

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Megan Schaltegger is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist.