Inside Don Muang Airport in Thailand (Simon Roughneen)

“It must be next. Where is it? I could do with getting to my hotel. I should be at the beach already!” For the weary arrival, glumly peering at the belt while slumped over a trolley, waiting at baggage claim is, as so-called first world problems go, one of the least appealing aspects of air travel.

In response to the growing number of air passengers reporting lost or delayed bags, Italian company Sostravel.com has come up with a “concierge” service which can “locate luggage and reunite passengers with it, wherever they are in their journey.”

But worse again is when bags don’t show up at all, leaving the bereft passenger to run a gauntlet of ground handlers and airlines to try trace the missing case and have it delivered as soon as possible.

With Sostravel’s Lost Luggage Concierge Service, if the missing bags are not back with the customer within 48 hours, the company will pay €40 ($44) a day for up to 10 days while they are locating your luggage. If the bags never turn up, the company says it will fork out up to €4,000.

Sostravel charges €9.90 per bag for the service, which it operates with the assistance of the International Society of Aeronautical Telecommunications (SITA), which recently published data showing reports and complaints of lost or delayed luggage increasing by around 75% in 2022.

Delayed bags accounted for 80% of all mishandled bags in 2022, a 9% increase, with the rest either damaged, lost or stolen. The data showed international flying to be 8 times as risky as domestic when it came to luggage.

The 2022 increase went against the longer-term grain that saw airlines and airports getting better at managing luggage, with a near-60% drop recorded between 2007 and 2019, despite the overall increase in air travel and passenger numbers.

The 2022 jump came as airlines and airports in Europe and North America reopened to large-scale traffic again following the pandemic-related border closures in early 2020.

“The industry was unprepared for the quick recovery, which caused more disruptions as airports, airlines, and ground handlers managed the increase in traffic with fewer staff members,” Sostravel.com said.

With Asia’s reopening held off until the second half of 2022, the industry is still playing catch-up globally. Passenger traffic hit 96% of the 2019 level in May 2023, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

However, according to Flightradar data, July 6 this year was the busiest single day of flying in aviation history. Overall traffic for 2023 looks on course to break pre-Covid records, meaning that unless the industry is better prepared, the impact of bag losses and delays could be even worse than in 2022.

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