Airlines mishandled 26 million pieces of luggage in total last year at a cost of $2.6 billion, according to airport IT provider Sita.
Delayed bags accounted for almost 83% of incidents, while 13% were damaged or pilfered and 4.2% lost or stolen.
The rate of mishandled bags was cut in 2012, with transfer flights accounting for less than half of incidents for the first time in four years as carriers used new technology to speed transit times and cope with delays, Sita said.
Some 8.83 bags per thousand people were mishandled, down from 8.99 in 2011. The number of transfer incidents fell almost 9% to 12.5 million, or 48% of the total.
Airport performance, reviewed for the first time this year, was worst in Europe, with 10.6 bags per thousand passengers mishandled at major hubs, compared with 4.17 in North America and just 2.28 in Asia, Sita’s ninth annual ‘baggage report’ shows.
The cost of mishandled bags per customer slid to 88 cents, or $1.01 less than in 2007, when the industry’s bill for compensation and rectification was $4.69 billion, Sita said.
The rate of mishandled bags has fallen 53% in the past six years, saving the industry $2.1 billion a year.
Sita chief executive Francesco Violante told Bloomberg: “The industry has made a concerted effort to improve baggage-handling operations in recent years through significant investment and innovation.”