BA tops baggage league of shame

4th Apr 2007

The Air Transport Users Council has published a report on mishandled baggage and the worst performing AEA airline in 2006 was British Airways.The AEA publishes its report every quarter, and produces an annual figure at the end
of each calendar year. The reports include not just baggage handling performance of
its member airlines, but also their performance in other areas.

The 2006 figures show that the AEA airlines that tend to have the worst performance
are the larger carriers. The three biggest carriers - Air France, Lufthansa and British
Airways - have the worst records (excluding the much smaller Air Portugal). One
feature that these airlines have in common is that they operate networks of flights
from large airports, where many of their passengers take connecting flights. This
appears to show that the risk of mishandled baggage is higher at major hub airports,
and that passengers on connecting flights are exposed to the highest risk of all.
Research by SITA, the leading air transport communications and IT solutions
provider, appears to confirm this. According to the SITA website, 61% of instances
of mishandled baggage are for connecting passengers.
There are understandable reasons why bags might be more likely to get mislaid on
connecting flights. Each bag is handled more often. Many large hub airports are
congested, with huge numbers of bags being transferred from flight to flight, often
from one airline to another. But this should not totally excuse the large network
carriers’ poor performance compared with their peers. And we do not believe that it
can wholly account for the fact that, on average, AEA airlines have mishandled more
baggage year-on-year for the past three years.
The worst performing AEA airline in 2006 was British Airways. They certainly fit
the profile of a large network carrier with lots of flights connecting through a
congested hub airport (in this case, Heathrow).

In 2006, airlines of the Association of European Airlines (AEA) reported that they
had mishandled 15.7 bags for every thousand passengers they had carried. That
works out at over 5.6 million mishandled bags. The AEA says that eighty-five
percent of mishandled bags are returned to their passengers within forty-eight hours.
That still works out at close to one million bags a year taking longer than two days to
find their way to their owners. Some never get returned at all. And these figures relates only to the twenty-four AEA airlines that file reports for

AUC chairman Tina Tietjen said:
” According to the airlines’ own data, the major European network airlines mishandled over 5.6 million bags in 2006. This figure, however, relates only to the twenty-four airlines that are members of the Association of European Airlines. We can only speculate on what the total might be for all airlines worldwide. Complaints to the Council show that instances of mishandled baggage can cause passengers considerable stress, inconvenience and expense. They also show that passengers often struggle to get reasonable redress from airlines after the event.
When passengers hand over their suitcases at check-in they should be able to expect to see them the other end. We therefore look to airlines to do all they can to improve their baggage handling. British Airways has told us that its performance in 2006 was not acceptable and it apologises to its customers. It also says that it is doing everything it can to put that right. But passengers should not have to take airlines’ word for it. We would like to see “name and shame” league tables on as wide a geographical basis as is possible to encourage airlines to avoid baggage problems in the first place. EU-wide league tables published by the European Commission would be a good place to start”


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