Airlines Lose Bags All the Time. Here’s an Easy Way to Ensure it’s Not Your Fault

by SharonKurheg

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that if you check a bag, there’s a chance it could go missing. The U.S. Dept of State said in their Full Year Air Travel Consumer Report (published March, 2024), airlines posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.58% (read: 1 bag per slightly less than 200ish is either damaged or goes missing).

The number of mishandled bags has admittedly decreased over the years. Statista has the numbers going as far back as 1990. And lest you think 2021’s 1.94 million mishandled bags isn’t THAT much better than 1990’s 2.66 million, remember that in 1990 there were 416.56 million domestic passengers, but in 2021 there were 674 million – so although there are undoubtedly many more pieces of checked luggage in general, the percentage of mishandled bags is significantly lower.

The reason there are less bags mishandled/lost every year is because of technology – those bag tags they wrap around the handle and those little SKUs they put either under the handle or on the side of your checked bag are all being sorted by computers, not people. That goes a long way in ensuring your luggage goes to the right place.

a white label with black textIf you’ve ever been in the unfortunate situation of discovering that your checked bag didn’t make it there with you, you know what a nightmare it is. And there’s a simple error you could be making that might make that situation more likely. Removing that little sticker can make all the difference in the world.

In a post from the official Ontario International Airport TikTok account, a luggage handler explained: “Let’s say you flew American [Airlines], and then a month later you flew Southwest [Airlines], well there’s a little sticker that goes on for American that tells the computer that it should go to there.

“So if your old American sticker is on there there’s a chance it’ll get scanned instead of the new one. It just depends how it’s clocked and where the stuff is. It might end up somewhere else and not get on the plane.”


Pro Tip: If you dont want your bags to get lost when traveling… remove old stickers from past trips off your luggage. #FlyONT #SoCalSoEasy

♬ Sunshine – WIRA

Of course, people SHOULD know to take off the old sticker…you’d think it’s common sense. But some people try to press the elevator button multiple times even though it won’t bring the car to their floor any faster. Or hang out by the gate when they’re calling Group 2 and they’re in Group 7. Or do dumb stuff like this, that makes tourism-related companies make signs that essentially say “DON’T DO DUMB STUFF.”

a yellow sign with a black and white image of a buffaloSo do yourself a favor and make sure to take off all stickers from your last flight before you go on your next flight. Not that you’ll ever know why your bag goes missing, but you don’t want your lost luggage to be your fault inadvertently.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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