Lost Luggage Near Record High

More than 1 million pieces of luggage were lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered by U.S. airlines from May to July, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. June and July ranked among the 20 worst months for mishandled baggage in 20 years.

What's to blame? Topping the list is the oh-so-popular restriction on carrying on gels and liquids, which has led to a surge in the number of checked bags since August 2006. (As if we needed another reason to hate that rule.)

Adding to those woes are staffing cutbacks during the industry's downturn a few years ago, major carriers' reliance on hubs, an increase in smaller airplanes that have weight restrictions on luggage and, of course, an antiquated air traffic control system that causes more and more delayed and cancelled flights.

Frustration has mounted to the point that even a well-traveled congressman, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), is alleged to have barged screaming, into a United Airlines baggage claim office at Dulles International Airport and shoved a clerk, leading to a misdemeanor assault charge. Filner disputes the charge and is due in court tomorrow.

His explanation summed up the feelings of many fliers: "I was tired after a delayed flight and frustrated by the subsequent further delay of the entire flight's baggage," he said in a written statement after the August incident.

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