Consider These Things When Checking a Bag for Your Next Flight

Do I check-in a bag, or do I not? Before making that critical decision, keep reading 🙂 

Getting yourself from A to B, on-time safely, is something airlines do for us thousands of times a day. The execution of logistics, staffing, and scheduling that has to be run perfectly to do this is no easy task – it’s quite remarkable and admirable how airlines pull this off.

But getting your checked bag to arrive from A to B alongside you has turned into a part of the traveler’s journey shrouded in doubt, especially after the baggage crisis this past summer. This leaves travelers with a critical decision: do I check a bag, or do I not? 

Well, if you tested your luck this summer by checking in a bag and fell short, it might comfort you to know that you weren’t alone. In fact, 1.4 million (and counting) individual bags were lost by US airlines so far in 2022, according to the US Department of Transportation. I know it’s easy to just throw up your hands in frustration at the airlines, but we want to share some traveler insights with you that can help you hedge your baggage arrival for your next trip. 

Let’s break down the airline customer journey, starting at the beginning –– right from when you book all the way through the post-lost baggage experience.

When booking a flight, do some quick research to learn who’s currently at the top of the leaderboard for lost baggage, as it varies by airline and as positions alternate as data reports are released. Currently, by percentage of likelihood, American Airlines, Republic Airways, and Envoy Air are most likely to lose checked baggage. Frontier, Hawaiian, and Allegiant lose the least. 

When booking, you also want to consider paying more for a direct flight, since virtually 100% of luggage lost happens because of connecting flights.

Before boarding, it’s a good idea to put key identifiers to locate your bag –– think stickers, colorful yarn… things that help locate the bag in case the tag falls off. 

Now, what if your bag hasn’t arrived with you? Here’s the harsh reality of the situation.

If you lose your bag and call customer service, just know you’re not the only one calling. In fact, customer complaints against airlines rose 321.5% above pre-pandemic levels in April 2022 compared to April 2019. So far in the first half of 2022, nearly 29,000 people filed official complaints about airlines with the Department of Transportation, compared to nearly 50,000 complaints in all of 2021.

If you’re wondering why you’re on hold for so long on that call, these numbers can explain. 

On any given day, an airline, like Southwest Airlines, will take in ~80,000 calls daily, 562,000 calls weekly, and 2.4 million calls monthly. Approximately 29.2 million calls were handled by Southwest Airlines Customer Representatives in 2019. Complaints about lost baggage in particular increased by 9.5% from May 2021 to May 2022 for the airline industry at large. 

Now, what’s your bag’s ETA? 

There’s no easy answer… it depends on how quickly the lost item claim can be matched to the bag, and how far you are from it. Sometimes, it’s still at your departing airport, which could be a several hour flight away. In those cases, it can be put on the next flight out. It’s safe to assume that your bag takes a few days to a month to return to you (on the slow side), depending on how long it takes to pinpoint your bag to your call / email and then prepare its return. 

Post-submission of your lost baggage claim, you can then request a reimbursement for your lost bag, which takes time too. You can expect your airline to take anywhere between 1-3 months to reimburse your lost luggage. 

While you can receive up to $3,800 in domestic flight reimbursements and up to $1,780 in international flight reimbursements for lost baggage, airlines ask you to list every item’s value for an accurate reimbursement estimation. They can fully reimburse you, but aren’t required to do so.

Despite all this, what if your bag isn’t lost but just delayed? It still takes another 2-7 days on average to recover delayed baggage. Not to mention any damages, which requires running another process even after you get your bag back. 

Overall, airlines are working hard to innovate so these problems don’t happen again. Lost baggage cost airlines $2.5 billion in 2019 –– while the numbers for this year haven’t concluded, just imagine how much lost baggage costs them now. This is a top industry priority, but like any big problem, solutions take time to implement. 

So, as you finalize your decision to check your bag or not, just remember: there are decisions you can make to proactively decrease your chances of losing it temporarily, forever, or best yet, not at all. 

Skyler Logsdon

CEO, Boomerang