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At a time when U.S. airlines are talking about new bag-tracking technologies and other improvements, they collectively let an uptick in checked bags ruin several years of strides in their mishandled bags' numbers.

Even as some airlines hike bag fees, passengers almost counter-intuitively checked more bags per person in 2013.

And right on cue, despite a few years of improvements, airlines mishandled more bags per passenger on domestic flights in 2013 compared with 2012, according to TSA and DOT statistics cited by Airlines for America.

While checked bags per passenger at airport ticket counters increased to 0.677 in 2013, up from 0.668 in 2012, the number of mishandled bags on domestic flights in 2013 spiked from around 2.9 per 1,000 customers in 2012 to 3.22 in 2013, A4A stated.

A spokesperson for Airlines for America points out, though, that “2012 was the best weather year in recent memory, a key driver for baggage delivery and on-time performance.”

Why would checked bags per customers be rising at at time when checked bag fees are increasing?

John Heimlich, A4A’s chief economist, briefed analysts on airline economics on March 5, and said one factor is that more leisure travelers were flying in 2013, and they tend to check more bags per person than business travelers.

It was a business-travel-led recovery, Heimlich said, and leisure travelers in 2013 joined in.

Personal incomes is rising, unemployment is down and passengers are getting used to airlines’ a la carte pricing, Heimlich said.

Heimlich said the increase in checked bags per passenger actually may be higher than A4A’s numbers indicate because they don’t include bags checked at the gate.

The increased rate of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers does indeed include bags checked at the airport ticket counter and bags checked at the gate.


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Tags: checked bags

Photo credit: Holiday travelers check their bags at a Delta counter as they prepare for Thanksgiving holiday travel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia November 25 , 2009. Tami Chappell / Reuters

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