Cases of lost and delayed baggage are skyrocketing as travelers face unprecedented problems at airports across North America and Europe, according to a new federal report.
This so-called “airmageddon” has been building for months: in April, nearly 220,000 checked bags among US airlines were lost, damaged, delayed or torn, a staggering 135% increase over the same period in 2021, according to the latest U.S. Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report released in June.
American Airlines led the pack with the highest likelihood of mishandling customer baggage, with nearly 70,000 cases in April 2022 compared to around 37,000 in April 2021. Alaska, Jet Blue, Delta and United, in that order , had the highest rates of mishandled baggage. .
American topped the list for two straight years, while Delta, United and Alaska all got worse, pushing Spirit out of the top five in April 2022.
Baggage complaints filed by consumers against US and foreign airlines have increased again – by 619% in the past year.
Total number of consumer complaints about airlines jumped 147%, report says
The problems are compounded by what passengers describe as appalling customer service from the airlines regarding what happens to all lost and damaged baggage.
“The most disheartening and traumatic thing is just the total lack of respect and communication for consumers,” Kartik Akileswaran, whose bags have been missing for more than a week, told The Post.
Akileswaran, 37, born in the United States, and his wife Uthara Ganesh, 33, traveled more than 4,000 miles from their current home in New Delhi, India, to Paris, France, to attend the wedding from a friend.
When they landed, they waited so long for their luggage that they missed the wedding, leaving them “completely distraught”.
Chris Wood, a retiree in her 60s living in Scotland, lost her luggage on a return flight from Montreal to Edinburgh late last week.
Wood said she and her husband spent seven days calling, emailing and tweeting the airport and airline “with no response.” They only received their luggage after a stranger found their bag abandoned at the airport and contacted Wood’s husband via an email address on the bag’s ID tag.
Wood called the experience a “nightmare”, which she attributed to “very poor communication” between airlines, airports and travellers. “Customer relations were really poor, customer service was non-existent,” she said.
Last week, Louis Quinones, 50, flew from Tampa, Florida to Berlin, Germany with a suitcase full of drugs, electronics and heirlooms that have since been lost.
For more than a week, he has been navigating what he describes as a “customer service desert” without “human contact”.
“Not only did they not find him, but [there’s] no communication,” he said. “No one called me to ease my discomfort.”
Experts attributed the travel chaos to staff shortages and labor strikes. Last week, Delta Airlines pilots picketed airports across the United States for higher pay and more time off. Airline workers in France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark are currently on strike for a pay rise, and British Airways narrowly avoided an impending strike on Thursday.
Ganesh and Akileswaran said they were sympathetic to the strikers, but were still discouraged by the complete lack of communication. The airline’s voicemail was full on a recent call, Akileswaran said.
“It’s a black hole at this point,” said Ganesh, 33, a technical manager who flies frequently and said she’s never experienced anything like it. “Honestly, it seems like the worst moment in history.”
A spokesperson for Berlin Brandenburg Airport said: “At the main hubs there are currently delays in baggage handling due to staffing issues. … Due to the staff situation at airports, baggage cannot be unloaded, sorted and reloaded on the next plane in time.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and airports in Tampa, Edinburgh, Brussels and Toronto directed The Post to contracted airlines and ground handling companies. SriLankan Airlines, Lufthansa and AirFrance did not respond to requests for comment.
With post wires