What problem have airline passengers complained most about this year? Lost luggage, according to Skytrax, an airline and airport user-review website. Researchers there scrutinized a long list of customer complaints to determine that loss of our possessions makes us more angry than delayed flights and uncomfortable seats (numbers 2 and 3 on the list, respectively).

Anyone whose bag has failed to fall down the chute and onto the carousel can appreciate the finding. But they — and all of us — should also take heart: Airlines are doing a better job of reuniting passengers with their luggage when they get off the plane.

According to a report by air transportation technology specialists SITA, even as the number of passengers is rising, the number of mishandled bags is falling.

In 2014, a year with 3.3 billion passengers, there were 7.3 mishandled bags per 1,000 fliers. This is down from a peak in 2007, when the ratio was 18.9 bags per 1,000 passengers.

The improved performance is due, in part, to better tracking. By 2017, most airlines will offer bag location updates to passengers via mobile devices, according to SITA.

Still, we live in an imperfect world. And the airline industry — as the Skytrax report suggests — accounts for some of that imperfection.

With that in mind, never stow valuables in your checked luggage. Carry prescription drugs with you onto the airplane. Bring a little toothpaste and a toothbrush for good measure. Arrive at the airport on time, so your bag can get to the plane. Put a copy of your itinerary, with your destination and contact information, in an outer pocket of your luggage so it is easy to retrieve. Because almost as much as you want your luggage, the airline wants to deliver it.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.