updated 2/17/2006 7:51:01 PM ET 2006-02-18T00:51:01

More bags were lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered by U.S. airlines last year than in at least eight years, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Reports of mishandled bags on domestic flights rose 23 percent in 2005, from 4.91 per 1,000 passengers in 2004 to 6.04 per 1,000. That’s an average of about 9,700 lost or damaged bags per day.

Last year, airlines were cutting jobs as the number of domestic passengers surged to the pre-Sept. 11 level of 590 million.

Of the 20 carriers that reported to the Transportation Department, Atlantic Southeast Airlines had the highest rate of baggage complaints — 17.41 per 1,000 passengers — and Hawaiian Airlines had the lowest, at 2.95 per 1,000.

Every checked bag must now be screened for explosives. According to a recent federal report, the Transportation Security Administration screens about 75 million bags a month.

The Transportation Department’s Web site has annual data on lost bags going back to 1998.

Meanwhile, Washington Dulles International Airport officials warned Friday of more flight delays — and increased congestion — unless the federal government finds a better way to check bags for explosives.

James E. Bennett, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, told a House committee meeting at the airport that the screening system cannot meet current or projected demand, is operationally inefficient and consumes an inordinate amount of TSA resources.

Many machines used to check bags for explosives require screeners to load luggage by hand. At best, workers are able to screen no more than 180 bags an hour.

“With the technology available today, that simply is not good enough,” said Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee. “The flying public is growing impatient.”

Davis, R-Va., said the bomb-screening machines can handle more luggage — up to 450 bags per hour — when they’re integrated with airports’ in-line baggage-handling systems.

Making such a change is costly, and federal funding for the in-line systems must also be juggled against other needs — including adding and maintaining existing security equipment, officials said.

Constructing in-line baggage screening systems at Dulles and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports would cost an estimated $316 million, Bennett told lawmakers.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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