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)

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

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)

Joseph HostetlerWho Has the Best Baggage Handling Track Record in 2018? Here’s Where Southwest Ranked (and the Winner Is the OPPOSITE of What You Thought)Million Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

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.

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

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! :)

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

5comments

by Newest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I should add… if the data can be segmented by airport, then we might get a better apples to apples comparison of each airline’s performance. This eliminates the impact from their mix of airports and isolates which airlines actually do better.

I bet it’s because Spirit often flies out of smaller airports where baggage volume may be lower and therefore less room for error/mixups.

My latest and greatest bag issue was with Southwest, someone in baggage handling neatly cut off all the shoulder straps of a large duffel and left absolutely no fabric to reattach something else if I wanted to. Was given $100 for my “inconvenience” I would rather have had my intact $300 Samsonite wheelie duffel!

couldn’t it be because lots of Spirit’s flyers don’t check luggage?

My thought exactly. If the study described baggage reports per 1,000 BAGS checked, that would be a more accurate measure, I think. I think it’s reasonable to assume that baggage reports per 1,000 PASSENGERS puts Southwest at a distrinct disadvantage because of their generous baggage allowance.