Lost luggage rates hit record low and canceled flights drop to 22-year low

A traveler gathers his luggage at San Francisco International Airport. U.S.-based airlines reported the lowest rate of lost or mishandled luggage since the data were first collected in 1987.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

U .S.-based airlines last year had the lowest rate of lost luggage, canceled flights and passengers getting bumped off overbooked planes in decades, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday.

But the number of discrimination complaints from passengers rose sharply in 2016 compared with the previous year, the federal agency reported.

The rate of lost or mishandled luggage was 2.7 for every 1,000 passengers in 2016, down from the rate of 3.13 in 2015. It was the lowest rate since the Transportation Department began keeping track of the data in 1987.

Seattle-based Alaska Airline had the biggest drop in the rate of lost luggage.


Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s biggest carriers, said airlines have been investing heavily in the last few years to improve their products and services, including new airplanes and luggage management systems.

“Airlines share the same goals as our customers, which is to deliver passengers and their luggage to and from their destination as safely and efficiently as possible,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for the group.

The rate of flights canceled last year dropped to 1.17%, down from 1.5% in 2015 — the lowest rate in 22 years of comparable data, the agency reported. The rate of passengers denied boarding from overbooked flights dropped to 0.62 per 10,000 passengers in 2016, the lowest rate since 1995.

Industry experts noted that severe weather is usually to blame for most cancellations, and airlines faced fewer storms in 2016 than in previous years.

But not all airline statistics for 2016 were positive. The number of discrimination complaints filed by passengers against U.S. and international carriers jumped to 94 last year, compared with 65 in 2015, a 45% increase.

Of those complaints, 65 passengers said they were discriminated because of race, 12 because of national origin and eight based on religion, according to the Transportation Department. Seven complaints alleged sex discrimination and two were “regarding color.”

“Our members do not tolerate discrimination in any form and, in fact, have been working collaboratively with DOT, civil rights organizations and other stakeholders to ensure the well-being of everyone who takes to the skies,” Jennings said.


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