If you plan to fly during the holiday season, the chances of an airline losing your luggage will increase sharply.
The rate of mishandled luggage in December was as much as 35% higher than the annual average in the years 2008 through 2010, according to a study by NerdWallet.com, a personal finance analysis site. In the month of January, the rate of lost or damaged rate was 43% higher than the annual average for 2008 to 2011.
For example, in December 2010, airlines reported an average rate of 4.7 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, compared with the average for the year of 3.47 lost or damaged bags, according to NerdWallet. The trend did not hold true in December 2011, when the rate dropped to 3.25 reports, compared with the 2011 average of 3.33 reports, according to NerdWallet.
Alicia Jao, Nerdwallet vice president of travel media, suggested a simple reason: Around the holidays, travelers carry more luggage with them, increasing the likelihood of lost bags.
“During the holidays, people usually check more luggage than when they travel, say, in the summer,” she said.
The study also found that lost luggage rates are higher among regional airlines. The worst offender, according to the study, is American Eagle, the regional carrier of American Airlines. The airline had 9.19 reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers in January 2011, more than double the average rate for all other airlines that year, according to the study.
Jao suggests regional airlines have a higher mishandle rate because they don’t put a high priority on lost luggage delivery. Don’t pack expensive items when flying on regional airlines, her website warns.
In a statement, AMR, the parent company of American Eagle, said the airline “continues to make great progress in its baggage performance, with a 28% improvement for the first nine months of 2012 compared to 2011.”