Unhelpful DOT Baggage Statistics


It’s that time of the month again. The DOT put out its Air Travel Consumer Report for August today, and since the liquid ban began that month, all eyes are on lost bag reports. As you’d expect, the numbers were worse , but there’s more to the numbers than the gloomy reports that the media puts out.

Below is a chart I put together comparing August numbers of this year with those of last year. The way that baggage complaints are measured is simple but stupid. They take the number of total baggage complaints reported to each airline and divide it by the number of total passengers that got on board that airline during the month. In the end, you get the number of complaints per 1,000 passengers as the standard measure.

Mishandled Bags

So why are these numbers stupid? Well, nobody cares how many people got on board. I want to know how many bags were checked. Last year I’m sure a lot fewer bags were checked than this year since this year the liquid ban forced almost everybody to check a bag. If you take the total complaints over the total number of bags checked instead of the total number of passengers, the numbers may actually have gone down year over year since the denominator would have grown so dramatically.

Until the DOT changes reporting standards, this doesn’t help us much at all.

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