American Airlines was worse than any other US carrier at reuniting passengers with their checked luggage through the first six months of the year, according to the latest data from the Department of Transportation.
The American Airlines network, which includes flights operated by the airline and its partners, “mishandled” 8.7 bags for every 1,000 check-in pieces of luggage on flights from January through June, according to the DOT’s recently released August Air Travel Consumer Report.
In total, American Airlines and its partners mishandled more than 454,000 bags during the six-month period, according to the feds.
The term mishandled refers to checked bags that were “lost, damaged, delayed and pilfered” during domestic nonstop flights, according to the agency’s release.
The Alaska Airlines network ranked second among the worst offenders, mishandling 7.2 checked-in bags per 1,000, or 94,000 in total. JetBlue ranked third with 7 mishandled bags per 1,000, or 53,785 in total.
Representatives for American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue did not immediately return requests for comment.
The number of mishandled bags on US domestic flights has spiked this year as fliers contend with travel chaos across the country. US airlines are struggling to meet surging demand while facing shortages of pilots and flight crews as well as supply chain disruptions and high fuel costs.
On the opposite end, Allegiant Air was the most reliable in terms of baggage handling, with 1.6 bags mishandled per 1,000. They were followed by Hawaiian Airlines at 3.1 bags per 1,000 and Frontier Airlines at 3.6 bags per 1,000.
In total, US airlines who qualified for tracking mishandled 6.3 bags per 1,000 during the first six months of 2022. That figure is much higher than the same six-month figure one year ago, when US airlines mishandled about 4.4 bags per 1,000.
The DOT tracks mishandled baggage figures for US airlines with at least half of 1% of domestic passenger revenues.
The feds will be watching airline performance closely over what is expected to be a busy Labor Day travel weekend. The Fourth of July and other recent holiday weekends have resulted in headaches for fliers in the form of flight cancellations and delays.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called flight disruptions “unacceptable” in a recent letter to the heads of major US airlines. He noted that 24% of US domestic flights were delayed over the first six months of the year.
Buttigieg said airlines should offer impacted passengers compensation if they are delayed or forced to stay at an airport overnight.
“The Department asks that airlines, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of 3 hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control,” Buttigieg said in the letter.
“Regardless of the cause of the delays or cancelations, the Department expects airlines to provide timely and responsive customer service during and after periods of flight disruptions,” he added.