Travel News

Southwest Mishandles Fewer Bags Than Airlines That Charge for Bags

Written by Charlie

Southwest is a favorite among travelers for things like free bags and it turns out that the airlines that charge for bags actually mishandle more bags than Southwest does!

Southwest is the US airline that customers really love thanks to some very pro-customer friendly policies – 2 free checked bags for everyone, no fee for changes or cancellations, frequent sales, great routing options, and more.

Which US Airline Mishandles the Most Bags? Hint: It is an airline that charges for carrying baggage

The other big airlines – American, Delta, United, and Alaska – all charge for bags (as do the budget airlines). That means these airlines are charging $30 for the first and $40 for the second while Southwest charges nothing for those two bags. You would think that a company that charges for a service (carrying your bag from one airport to another) would be doing a better job at actually getting you your bag on time, right?

It turns out, that thinking would be wrong! According to The Philadelphia Enquirer (and based on the statistics from the Department of Transportation), here is the order of airlines in mishandled baggage.

Which Airlines Mishandle the Most Bags?

These numbers are the mishandled baggage rate per 1,000 bags (and includes lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered bags). These numbers are for the first 6 months of 2019.

  • Allegiant – 1.7 per 1,000 (6,088 bags)
  • Frontier – 4.1 per 1,000 (20,793 bags)
  • Spirit – 4.6 per 1,000 (29,024 bags)
  • Southwest – 4.7 per 1,000 (284,404 bags)
  • Delta – 4.8 per 1,000 (245,017 bags)
  • Alaska – 5.3 per 1,000 (74,530 bags)
  • JetBlue – 5.5 per 1,000 (37, 541 bags)
  • United – 7.2 per 1,000 (281,665 bags)
  • American – 9 per 1,000 (528,630 bags)

Yep, that’s right, Delta, United, and American are 3 of the top 5 airlines as far as how many airlines mishandle bags in the US. Those airlines charge for those bags and they mishandle more than Southwest. In fact, American Airlines mishandles almost double the amount of bags that Southwest does.

At least Alaska and Delta offer some miles/vouchers for late bags while AA offers nothing. Remember, though, your credit card may cover you for things like this as well if you use that card to purchase the ticket (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred).

I understand the unbundling of tickets and charging extra for things like bags and seat selection. But, if an airline is going to charge to carry that luggage, they need to at least get better at delivering those bags at the end of the flight. While 9 bags per 1,000 bags does not sound like a lot, that means that 1 person from every flight (or 1.5 flights) with AA could find that they don’t have their bag at the end of a flight.

Featured image courtesy Arina P Habich /

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.