Who Has the Best Baggage Handling Track Record in 2018? Here’s Where Southwest Ranked (and the Winner Is the OPPOSITE of What You Thought)

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While the odds of your checked bag being lost in transit are very small, it’s happened to me 3 times that I can remember.

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself against lost or mishandled luggage.  Most importantly, you can reserve your flights with a credit card that reimburses you if your bag is delayed, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which will hand you up to $500 if your bag is delayed 6+ hours.

Air Travel Consumer Report has published a FASCINATING new study that shows which airlines have the best and worst track record of taking care of your valued bags.  FASCINATING in all caps because I cannot believe which airline ranked the best.

If You Want to Have the Smallest Chance of Losing Your Checked Bag, You’ll Have to Decrease Your Standards in All Other Areas

Here are the baggage handling ratings for the top 12 US airlines.  The numbers are the baggage reports per 1,000 passengers:

  • Envoy Air (airline that flies for American Airlines) – 6.21
  • ExpressJet (airline that flies for American Airlines and United Airlines) – 5.87
  • Skywest (airline that flies for American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines) – 4.69
  • American Airlines – 4.34 
  • United Airlines – 3.15
  • Alaska Airlines – 3:09
  • Southwest – 2.9
  • Frontier – 2.77
  • Hawaiian Airlines – 2.58
  • JetBlue – 1.97
  • Delta – 1.94
  • Spirit Airlines – 1.84

You can see that our favorite airline, Southwest, ranks smack dab in the middle of the herd with 2.9 passengers of every 1,000 losing their luggage.  That means if you were to take 333 Southwest flights, you’d probably lose your bag once.

Others, like American Airlines and United Airlines, appear incrementally worse than Southwest.  However, these airlines contract other airlines with abysmal records to operate several of their routes.  Envoy Air, which flies for American Airlines, mishandles 6.21 bags for every 1,000 passengers.  And ExpressJet, which flies for American Airlines and United Airlines, loses 5.87 bags for every 1,000 passengers.

Dumbfoundingly, Spirit Airlines is your best option if you want your luggage handled with care.  In other words, Spirit Airlines cares more about the contents of the cargo hold than it does about the contents of the airplane seats.

That makes for quite a conundrum.  If you fly with American Airlines, you’re most likely to have your luggage lost.  If you fly with Spirit Airlines, you’re most likely to experience delays and complications.  Either way, you should book your flight with a card that covers all those misfortunes.  Check out my post on the best travel insurance credit cards, so you can be reimbursed for lost bags, delayed flights, canceled trips, and lots more!

I’d love to hear your lost luggage horror stories.  I have plenty of my own.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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