If the airlines lost your luggage last year, you are among a few unlucky passengers. Very few.
During 2012, the nation's largest airlines reported the lowest rate of lost or mishandled luggage since federal officials began keeping the data in 1987.
For the year, the nation's airlines had a rate of 3.09 lost or damaged bags for every 1,000 passengers, compared with the rate of 3.35 bags in 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday.
Some airline critics have suggested that the rate of lost luggage has been declining because passengers carry fewer bags to avoid the check-luggage fee that most airlines introduced in the past four years.
Airline officials disagree, saying instead that investments in digital tracking systems and other improvements have helped the industry deliver more bags on time.
"It was an excellent year for airline operational performance and a record-high success rate for baggage handling," said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation's largest airlines.The 15 largest airlines in the country also posted an 81.85% on-time arrival rate in 2012, the third highest annual performance in the past 18 years. The highest rate was 82.14% in 2002, followed by 81.96% in 2003, according to the federal agency. (A flight is considered late if it lands or takes off more than 14 minutes after its scheduled arrival or departure time.)
The Department of Transportation attributes the decline in delays and lost luggage to the work of airlines and the adoption of new federal regulations and airline fines over the past three years.
"We will continue to work with carriers to make air travel more convenient and hassle-free for consumers," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.