Airlines have been slowly but surely improving their handling of luggage. On average, nationwide complaints have dropped by 27 percent since 2012. Carriers such as United have improved by more than 50 percent, and no major American airline has worsened. Last September, which has always been the lowest month for lost bags, American airlines reported the lowest monthly rate of mishandled baggage in thirty years with 1.99 per 1,000 passengers being lost.


During the summer season, more than half a million pieces of luggage are expected to be lost, misdirected, or damaged on US flights, according to LuggageHero and based on a study by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for 2012 to April 2018. Generally, only two to three out of 1,000 travelers will have a bag lost or damaged, yet 568,000 complaints are expected to be filed this summer as 228 million travel across American airspace.

According to the DOT, “Airlines are required to compensate you for lost, delayed, or damaged bags. If a passenger’s bag is delayed, airlines will pay reasonable expenses the passenger incurs while he or she waits for the delayed bag. If a passenger’s bag is damaged because of rough handling, airlines will pay for the repairs or negotiate a settlement to pay the passenger the depreciated value. If a passenger’s bag is lost, airlines will reimburse the passenger the depreciated value of his or her lost belongings.”

Among airlines, those that scored highest in terms of luggage handling were Delta, Spirit Airlines, and JetBlue, while Envoy Air, ExpressJet, and SkyWest scored lowest, logging more than twice as many complaints as their competitors since 2012.

If your luggage is lost, there are some steps travelers should take, such as:

Report lost or damaged luggage to the airline immediately, preferably while you’re still at the airport. Also, document as much as you can with photos, and save all communications.

Make sure that a proper report is filed and that you are given a copy. If you’re flying within the US, DOT rules stipulate that your luggage is covered up to $3,500 per passenger and $1,536 internationally. To collect, you must fill out the necessary forms and have proof of loss.

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If your bag is damaged, the airline should repair it or replace it, and if you bag is lost, the airline should reimburse you for the cost of essential items. Also, if you were charged a fee to check the bag, you should be refunded, and if you paid by credit card and if you have travel insurance, check to see if your agreements cover luggage loss or damage.

The DOT also states that “Airlines are required to accept all reports of mishandled baggage, including reports of damage to wheels, straps, zippers, handles, and other protruding parts of checked baggage beyond normal wear and tear, even if an airline’s agent believes the airline is not liable.”