Airlines are required to file reports with the U.S. Department of Transportation that disclose the number of lost baggage reports that their customers file. However, American Airlines rolled out a system that notifies passengers when their bags do not make a flight and ask the customers to provide “delivery information.” Because the customers are proactively engaged on their luggage losses, they do not file a written report about their lost bags.
The result of the proactive seizure of the issue by American is that the airline’s number of lost baggage reports is down to its lowest rate in years. Statistically, American looks terrific on paper. However, if you know that American’s system thwarts reports, you know that the DOT does not have a clear picture of whether bags are lost, mishandled, or destroyed by the airlines. The released stats make American look great. The truth is not so great.
The DOT is looking into the American system to determine whether the proactive approach complies with regulatory reporting requirements. United and Delta are about to adopt a similar proactive program.
We can always find a loophole in the law, in regulations, in accounting rules. And we can improve our numbers, how we look to the outside world. But, eventually the outside world and/or regulators catch on. You are then back to the hard work of business — customer satisfaction, improving processes, and all the dull work that makes a company improve. Looks like the airlines will be back to trying to find ways to stop losing luggage. Probably would have been good to start facing that reality before the regulators caught on.