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Wed, Mar 22, 2006

Airlines Lose A Record Number Of Bags In 2005

30 Million Pieces Of Luggage Lost; 240,000 Gone Forever

Have you flown commercially lately? Did you arrive at your destination with fewer pieces of luggage than you left with? You're not alone. Airlines worldwide lost a record 30 million bags in 2005, according a study by SITA, a Swiss airline consulting firm.

While that may be a frightening statistic, the truth is that lost luggage accounts for but one percent of all baggage handled worldwide last year -- meaning 99 percent of the time, the airlines got it right. But that's little comfort to someone who's lost their bag... especially as about 240,000 of those bags disappeared entirely, never reaching their owners.

"It remains that 30 million bags were mishandled last year," SITA executive Rich Fiorenza told USA Today. "And if one of them was yours, you don't care that 99% were handled right."

The actual percentage of lost luggage -- and number of pieces recovered -- hasn't changed much in recent years, Fiorenza said. What's driven the overall number of lost bags up, is the fact that more travelers have returned to the skies.

Of course, lost baggage costs the airlines money, too -- an estimated $2.5 billion to return bags to their owners, or to compensate owners whose bags have disappeared forever. That's up from $1.6 billion spent dealing with such issues in 2004.

"That's right off the industry's bottom line, a totally needless cost," Fiorenza says.

Alas, there isn't much passengers can do to guarantee their bags will arrive at their destination... but you can stack the odds in your favor a little. Fly direct, without any connecting flights -- about 61 percent of all mishandled bags in 2005 were lost during transferring them from one flight to another, according to SITA.



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