Go ahead, check that bag. Chances are good it will arrive.


Go ahead, check that bag.

On many airlines it may cost you a fee, but the good news is that airlines and airports are getting better at getting your bag to its destination.

According to the SITA Baggage Report 2017, in 2016 the rate of mishandled bags was 5.73 bags per thousand passengers.  That’s down 12.25 percent from the previous year and is the lowest ever recorded.

This, despite a spike in the number of passengers, which last year hit an all-time high of 3.77 billion.

According to SITA, since 2007, the rate of mishandled baggage worldwide has fallen 70 percent, due to investment in technologies and processing improvements by both airlines and airports.

SITA promises more improvements over the next 18 months as the majority of the world’s airlines (those that belong to IATA, the International Air Transport Association) have adopted a resolution requiring every piece of checked baggage to be tracked along its journey by June 2018.

“We are on the brink of a new era in airline baggage management because the world’s airlines are committing to track baggage throughout its journey,” said Ilya Gutlin, SITA President, Air Travel Solutions in the report, “This requires data capture, management and sharing across airlines, airports and ground handlers giving a better view of where each piece of luggage is at every stage.”

Once IATA Resolution 753 becomes the accepted rule in June 2018, every bag must be tracked and recorded at four mandatory points: at check-in; aircraft loading; at transfer between carriers; and on arrival as the bag is delivered back to the passenger.

When that system is in place, says IATA, airlines will be able to share the information with their passengers and code share partners allowing them to track their bag, just like a parcel.

Mishandled baggage isn’t just a bummer for passengers. Wayward bags cost airlines money.

SITA’s report shows that in 2016 airlines spent $2.1 billion on recovering and reuniting passengers with their bags.


Free museums & expensive luggage delivery

Photo courtesy Harvard Museum of Natural History via Flickr

I’m a big fan of “free” and a big fan of the Museums on Us program that offers free admission on the first weekend of each month to more than 150 museums around the country to anyone who has Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card.

The list includes museums, zoos and attractions such as Chicago’s Alder Planetarium, where general adult admission is usually at least $12, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass. where adult admission is usually $9.

With the money you save, you might want to fly down to New Orleans and hop on one of the new riverboats  now cruising up the and down the Mississippi or buy yourself a meal at the new full-service Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant in Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where things like bacon-wrapped meatloaf and oven roasted salmon are now on the menu.

Or use your saving towards the new baggage delivery service being sold by American Airlines and BAGS VIP Luggage Delivery. Beginning Monday, Aug. 6, you can pay ($29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags and $49.95 for three to 10 bags) to have the bags you check at more than 200 U.S. airports delivered to your home, office or hotel instead of having to go pick them up at baggage claim and tote them with you.

Passengers can purchase the service on-line up to two hours prior to departure and, for delivery locations within 40 miles of the airport, expect their bags to be delivered to their destination within one to four hours of arrival.

A good deal? For some, maybe. But keep in mind that the price for Baggage Delivery Service is in addition to the regular bag fees that need to be paid at check-in. And for bags that need to be delivered between 41 and 100 miles from the airport, there is an additional $1 per mile charge and an estimated delivery time between four and six hours instead of one to four hours.

No word yet on whether all fees are returned if your luggage goes missing or if delivery times are not met.

Airlines get thumbs up from data; thumbs down from travelers

(From my story on’s Overhead Bin. )

Performance-wise, 2011 was a very good year for U.S. airlines. As an industry, overall performance was the best in the 21 years of the Airline Quality Rating 2012 (AQR) (PDF), a yearly report that crunches data such as lost bags, delayed flights, bumped passengers and customer complaints.

“This is not opinion. In almost two decades we have not had this level of optimum performance,” Dr. Brent Bowen, the head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, told Bowen conducts the AQR with Dr. Dean Headley, an associate professor at the W. Frank Barton School of Business, Wichita State University. The report was released April 2.

Despite the strong marks, however, air travelers don’t seem to notice. In the Airline Passenger Survey 2012 (PDF), also conducted by Purdue and Wichita State researchers and released Friday, more than half of frequent fliers polled reported being disappointed with the air travel experience.

“By the numbers, 2011 may have been the best year for the airlines,” said Dr. Erin Bowen, one of the survey’s authors and an assistant professor at Purdue University’s Department of Technology Leadership & Innovation. “But airlines are doing a poor job of conveying these improvements to passengers. The objective improvements don’t match up with the experience passengers are getting when they fly,” she said.

Among some other findings from the survey:

Fifty-four percent of frequent fliers don’t believe airlines are being completely honest by attributing fare and fee increases to rising fuel costs;

Given a choice of how to offset rising air costs, air passengers put a la carte fees, such as Allegiant Air’s recently imposed fee for carry-on bags, at the bottom of their wish list. “They’d rather pay a higher fee, take alternative transportation or fly less,” Erin Bowen said;

Passengers primarily rely on price and schedule when choosing an airline. When that is constant, however, travelers consider customer service (36 percent) and on-time arrival (32 percent) as factors.

In a ranking of the most passenger-friendly airlines, Southwest was an overwhelming favorite. More than one-third of frequent fliers surveyed put the low-cost carrier ahead of the 14 other airlines on the list. JetBlue was ranked No. 2 (12 percent), followed by Continental and Alaska (6 percent each).

Southwest also ranked No. 1 as the most preferred airline with 17 percent of the vote. Delta and United were close behind at 12 percent, followed by American (11 percent) and JetBlue (10 percent).

The gap between Southwest and its competitors has been shrinking. In 2009, the first year of the Airline Passenger Survey, the discrepancy between Southwest and Delta was 9 percent; the gap fell to just under 6 percent at the end of 2010, and now sits at 5 percent.

“Southwest has the lead, but other airlines are starting to do a better job of meeting consumer expectations and putting out a friendlier message,” Erin Bowen said.

Euro crisis worries airlines, but progress marches on

Troubles in the Eurozone have caused the organization representing 240 of the world’s airlines and 84% of global air traffic to revise its overall outlook for the airline industry.

Based on current actions being taken to try to avert a credit crunch in the Eurozone and additional measures central banks are expected to take to avert financing problems facing Italy and Spain, on Wednesday the International Air Transport Association (IATA), downgraded its central forecast for airline profits from $4.9 billion to $3.5 billion for a net margin of 0.6%.

“The biggest risk facing airline profitability over the next year is the economic turmoil that would result from a failure of governments to resolve the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Such an outcome could lead to losses of over $8 billion—the largest since the 2008 financial crisis,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Tyler was speaking at a meeting held at IATA’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, where a wide variety of ‘state of the industry’ reports and forecasts for security, safety, the environment and other aspects of the airline industry were also presented.

Now that so much of the check-in process is done electronically via kiosks, the web and mobile boarding passes, Paul Behan, IATA’s Head of Passenger Experience predicted that the ‘boarding pass’ will soon replaced by a ‘boarding token’ and said that “baggage processing, is still one of the greatest challenges in terms of simplification.”

Behan described several trials currently underway that allow travelers to print their baggage tags at home and another in which Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been embedded right into a suitcase. “This trial simply showed that you can embed an RFID baggage tag, program it at a baggage drop and then use the tag for sortation,” said Behan, but he said the next step is to use the system to make “interaction-free and tag-free baggage drop a possibility.”

Behan also noted that while many airlines already offer the ability to register a lost bag claim online, IATA is working with airlines to move the baggage tracking systems from interactive to proactive.

For example, he said that instead of having a passenger wait to see if their bag shows up at the baggage claim, “The passenger might get a proactive text or phone message from the airline saying they already know there’s a problem with a bag and that the process of locating their bag has begun.”

In the area of security, Ken Dunlap, IATA’s Global Director Security and Travel Facilitation, outlined ways in which airlines are working with airports and governments on a “checkpoint of the future” designed to change the passenger experience and enhance security. He said that while far more high-tech than today’s checkpoints, as designed, the checkpoint of the future only uses personal data about passengers that has already been gathered by other organizations. “That data is now used at the end of the journey [i.e. at customs and immigration]. We want to use it at the beginning of the journey as well to increase security.”


“Get your freak on” TSA worker to be fired

Update: The Transportation Security Administration employee who added the personal note (above) to the inspection paperwork placed in a traveler’s checked bag will be fired, the agency said on its blog.

“TSA has completed its investigation of this matter, and has initiated action to remove the individual from federal service,” the agency said.

After traveling with a small vibrator in her checked luggage, New York-based blogger and lawyer Jill Filipovic discovered that someone had scrawled “Get your freak on girl,” across the TSA paperwork left in her bag.

Under the title “Your tax dollars at work,” Filipovic posted the note on the Feministe blog and added her own comment, “Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room.”

She also Tweeted a photo of the note, adding: “Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA. Guess they discovered a ‘personal item’ in my bag. Wow.”

The TSA inspection card is printed in Spanish on one side and English on the other.

“The note was inappropriate,” said Filipovic, “the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.”

(The original version of this story appeared on’s Overhead Bin)