With all the recent negative news surrounding the U.S. airline industry, might Europe offer travelers a better experience? Not so much. In fact, Europe's air carriers and airports may be every bit as dysfunctional, at least when it comes to handling your bags.
An article in the Orlando Sentinel lays out some pretty shocking numbers, like the fact that "an average of 10 passengers per flight lost bags between April and June." Or how about British Airways (at the center of bad news lately), which is predicted to lose 1.3 million bags this season? Things have gotten so dire for BA's passengers that "a luggage 'mountain' of about 22,000 lost bags piled up in London" and the airline "was forced to use freighters at least twice in the past eight months to reunite passengers in the United States with their belongings."
What can we as travelers do about this situation? According to the Association of European Airlines, we should try to avoid checking bags at all, and just pack everything we need in our carry-ons. If you can pack this light, I'd say do it, but most of us go to Europe for more than a few days, so we're likely to need more carrying capacity.
At the expensive end of the solution spectrum is shipping your bags ahead of time, and there are companies like First Luggage and Luggage Free that will do that for you. If you're of more modest means, you'll likely prefer to check at least one suitcase, so fly nonstop to your final destination if at all possible. It's a great way to avoid the risk of your luggage remaining behind while you're transferring planes. If you must connect to a new flight, try to at least make sure there's ample connection time for the baggage handlers to move your luggage between terminals.
Whatever method of luggage protection you choose, make sure to pack your essentials in your carry-on. This means not only your medications and travel documents, but also your camera, any valuables, and at least one change of clothes.
You may not be able to avoid airline craziness in Europe this summer, but with a little planning, you should be able to maintain possession of your most important things.