The travel industry prefers to describe lost airline luggage as 'mishandled'.
According to the 2015 Baggage Report from SITA, which provides IT and telecommunications services to the air transport industry, airlines mishandled 7.3 bags for every 1000 passengers in 2014. This is a reduction of more than 60 per cent on the same statistic for 2007, a low point for lost luggage.
When you report your baggage missing, most airports will enter the details into the WorldTracer system. When baggage handlers find a lost bag, they enter the details into the same system and a happy reunion ensues.
About 80 per cent of bags that did not make it to the baggage carousel to meet their owner in 2014 were simply delayed. The average time it took for a bag to rejoin its owner was 1.6 days. Damaged or pilfered bags accounted for about 15 per cent and 5 per cent – less than four bags for every 10,000 that travelled were never seen again.
In most cases, compensation for lost luggage is set under the Montreal Convention, and expressed in the International Monetary Fund's unit of exchange known as Special Drawing Rights.
The maximum claim is 1131 SDRs, currently worth just over $2000. Aboard domestic flights in the US, compensation is set by the country's Department of Transport, and limited to $US3300.