The Airlines’ Summer Crisis: You’ve Arrived… But Your Luggage Hasn’t …

It’s summer 2022… you know what that means: travel is back, like never before. 

A two-year, pandemic-induced halt on vacations and travelers are now using their PTO and saved-up funds to make up for lost time. 

On average, travelers spend $5,400 on vacations a year. Two years of no vacation travel –– you can imagine the excitement building your luggage wardrobe for your long-awaited summer getaway. 

As travel restrictions and mask mandates gradually dissolve, 96% of people are planning to travel overseas this year according to an IMG survey, an 11% increase over pre-pandemic travel levels

Unlike other summers, 2022 travel is characterized by skyrocketing levels of lost luggage from all major airlines globally. To quote an airline executive in one of our recent meetings: “we’re in an all-out baggage crisis like we’ve never seen before.” 

We’ve spent weeks researching and analyzing its roots… it boils down to a few things: 

  1. Major industry labor layoffs over the past few years have left new talent unprepared for peak seasons; and
  2. The airline industry’s baggage handling and tracking technology infrastructure is wildly outdated and not built for this sort of scale. 

As one interviewed lost baggage customer this summer puts it: “the technology system airlines use feels like a website from the 90’s. It was super frustrating and lacked sophistication.” 

Combine the labor shortages with an archaic system, and you get nearly 220,000 checked bags lost, delayed, or damaged from U.S. airlines in April alone –– an astounding 135% increase from the same period last year (USDOT, May 2022 Air Travel Consumer Report). There’s been a 619% increase in baggage complaints from 2021, and in total, over 1.4 million bags are lost from airlines annually. 

Horror stories are a dime a dozen, like Delta at Heathrow Airport’s “airmageddon” which flew 1,000 lost bags and zero passengers (read here) as travel demand beat out labor supply.    

Another customer, Andrew, who we chatted with about his lost baggage nightmare this summer on a friends’ Europe trip confessed to us that he and all of his friends had lost all their luggage. Him alone, at least 10 hours wasted: 5 hours on hold, 2 hours on multiple calls to unhelpful agents, 1 hour filling out countless claims, and 2 hours replacing items. Not to mention, there’s at least $3,000 worth of value in his lost luggage, and despite following up every few days in the airline’s outdated lost and found portal, he hasn’t seen it in over 3 weeks.

“It’s been almost a month and still nothing. Everything has been a huge letdown, from the technology to submit and track my claim, to the customer support agents, to the communication – it couldn’t get any worse. I’d give this airline a 0 out of 10.”

Or the grandmother with Parkinson’s, whose lost bag –– now in a different city –– stored the meds she need to take:

Or this one:

It’s been a tornado for airlines – if it’s not this, it’s that. We have nothing but tremendous empathy for the airlines and admire their resilience they’ve shown over the past few years. From downsizing during COVID-19 to staffing shortages, the pilot strikes, oil price surges, inflation, flight cancellations, surging heat waves, millions spent on financial reimbursements and flight vouchers for baggage mishaps, and now… lost baggage and lost customers. 

Customers expect more from the revamped travel industry now more than ever. And we get it –– it’s tough to adapt and change is never easy, but something must change to avoid another crisis next summer. This can’t be the new norm. 

Boomerang is here to help – we’re a technology company that’s solving lost and found to do our part in elevating the travel experience with airlines / airports. We have two smart products for airlines & airports to choose from depending on your needs, which help elevate your customers’ journey to boost that NPS that took a beating this past summer.

Let’s turn this crisis around, and start to “wow” those customers again. 

Skyler Logsdon

CEO, Boomerang