Cases of lost and delayed luggage are skyrocketing as travelers face unprecedented woes 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 U.S. airlines were lost, damaged, delayed or ripped, a staggering 135% increase from the same period in 2021, according to the most recent 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 with about 37,000 in April 2021. Alaska, Jet Blue, Delta and United, in that order, had the next highest rates of mishandled bags.
American has topped the list for two years in a row, while Delta, United and Alaska all got worse, pushing Spirit out of the top five in April 2022.
Baggage complaints made by consumers against U.S. and foreign airlines ballooned even more — by 619% over the past year.
Total consumer complaints about airlines leaped 147%, the report said.
Compounding the problems is what passengers describe as dreadful customer service from airlines about what is happening to all the lost and damaged bags.
“The biggest thing that’s so discouraging and sort of traumatizing is just the utter lack of regard and communication for consumers,” Kartik Akileswaran, whose bags have been missing for over a week, told The Post.
US-born Akileswaran, 37, and his wife Uthara Ganesh, 33, flew more than 4,000 miles from their current home in New Delhi, India, to Paris, France, to attend a friend’s wedding.
When they landed, they waited so long for their bags that they missed the wedding, leaving them “completely distraught.”
Chris Wood, a retiree in her mid-70s living in Scotland, lost her bags 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 “without reply.” They only received their luggage after a stranger found their bag abandoned in 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 “really poor communication” between airlines, airports, and travelers. “Customer relations were really poor, customer care was non-existent,” she said.
Last week, Louis Quinones, 50, flew from Tampa, Florida, to Berlin, Germany, with a suitcase filled with medications, electronics and family heirlooms which has since been lost.
For over a week, he’s been navigating what he described as a “desert of customer service” with “no human contact.”
“Not only they have not found it, but [there’s] no communication whatsoever,” he said. “No one has called me to ease my discomfort.”
Experts have attributed the travel chaos to staffing shortages and labor strikes. Delta Airlines pilots last week picketed outside airports across the U.S. for higher wages and more time off. Airline workers in France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark are currently striking for increased pay, and British Airways on Thursday narrowly avoided an impending strike.
Ganesh and Akileswaran said they were sympathetic to the striking workers, but were still disheartened by the complete lack of communication. The airline’s voicemail was full during one recent call, Akileswaran said.
“It’s a black hole at this point,” said Ganesh, 33, a tech executive who flies frequently and said she’s never experienced anything like this.“Honestly, it seems like it’s the worst time in history.”
A spokesperson for Berlin Brandenburg airport said, “At the major hubs there are currently delays in baggage handling due to staffing problems. … Due to the staffing situation at the airports there, the baggage can‘t be unloaded, sorted and reloaded in 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 airlines and contracted ground handling companies. SriLankan Airlines, Lufthansa and AirFrance did not respond to requests for comment.