NEW YORK — Heading into winter, fliers should take extra precautions with their checked luggage: December and January are traditionally the worst months for lost bags.
To avoid problems, arrive at the airport early enough to let your bag get to the plane, and print out a copy of your itinerary from the airline's website and stick it inside just in case all the tags get ripped off.
In the United States during the first nine months of this year, 3.3 bags for every 1,000 passengers didn't make it to their destination on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's not great if you're among those whose bag is delayed or lost. But consider this: During the 2007 peak in air travel, airlines mishandled more than twice as many suitcases — 7.2 bags per 1,000 passengers.
Globally, the baggage-mishandling rate has fallen 61 percent from its peak in 2007, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology provider. That has saved the industry $18 billion.
The vast majority of bags, 80 percent, aren't lost but just delayed, according to SITA. It takes about a day-and-a-half to reunite passengers with their bags. Another 14 percent are damaged or have their contents reported stolen. And nearly 6 percent of bags are lost or stolen completely.
December and January tend to be the worst months because there are a lot of infrequent travelers checking multiple bags, and a few snowstorms can add to delays and suitcases that miss connections.