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Worst Airlines for Baggage Handling

Checking a bag on your next flight? No doubt you’ve factored the checked-bag fee into your choice of airline. But have you also considered the likelihood that your bag will actually be delivered?

Not all bags make it to their intended destination on time and in one piece. And some airlines are significantly better (or worse) at managing the process.

The Department of Transportation keeps tabs on mishandled bags, a category which includes not just lost but damaged, delayed, and pilfered bags as well. And since the data only reflect the number of bags reported to have been mishandled, the actual numbers would be somewhat higher. But at least in relative terms, the data should be a pretty accurate picture of which airlines do better and worse jobs of getting your precious cargo from point A to point B.

The following list ranks U.S. airlines, from worst to best. (The number after the airline’s name shows the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers for the first nine months of 2014, the latest DOT information currently available.)

  1. Envoy Air (formerly American Eagle) – 8.8
  2. ExpressJet – 5.8
  3. SkyWest – 4.8
  4. Southwest – 4.3
  5. American – 3.8
  6. United – 3.7
  7. Alaska – 2.7
  8. Delta – 2.4
  9. Hawaiian – 2.2
  10. JetBlue – 2.1
  11. Frontier – 1.8
  12. Virgin America – 1.0

So, based on the above numbers, your checked bag is about nine times more likely to be mishandled by Envoy than by Virgin America. If all things were equal—and, of course, they’re not—that would be a reason to book Virgin America over Envoy. More realistically, if there’s no practical alternative to flying Envoy, it would be a solid reason to carry your bag onboard and stow it safely in the overhead compartment.

Reader Reality Check

Do you factor baggage-delivery reliability into your travel planning?

This article originally appeared on

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