Lost Luggage? Not so Much

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While airline-related complaints filed with the DOT are at a 15-year high, the news isn’t all bad for flyers. One bright spot: baggage handling.

According to the just-released Sita Baggage Report 2016, the number of mishandled bags per thousand passengers in 2015 was the lowest ever, down 10.5 percent from 2014 and less than half the number recorded in 2003. That’s real progress. And it’s a trend that can realistically be expected to continue.

RELATED: Airfares Fall to Lowest Levels Since 2010

Delta, for example, which handles 120 million bags a year, recently announced plans to introduce RFID bag-tracking, allowing the airline and its customers to track checked bags from end to end. Later this year, flyers will be able to use the Fly Delta mobile app to receive push notifications of their bags’ status.

It’s not just Delta. The International Air Transport Association, in its Resolution 753, has mandated that all member airlines have systems in place by June 2018 to track passengers’ bags in real time, from check-in to the baggage carousel.

Of course, with the airlines generating enormous revenues from checked-bag fees ($2.8 billion in 2015), there’s considerable consumer pressure to deliver those bags undamaged and on-time. And that pressure is now coming from regulators as well.

The U.S. Senate last month approved a provision in the FAA reauthorization bill that would require airlines to refund checked-bag fees if bags aren’t delivered within six hours of the arrival of a domestic flight, or within 12 hours of an international arrival.

Long lines. Crusher seats. Out-of-control fees. Gutted loyalty programs. Air travelers still have plenty to complain about. Mishandled bags may still be on the list, but they’re now closer to the bottom than to the top. In the airline industry, that counts as progress.

Reader Reality Check

Do you worry less about your checked bags these days?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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