The EU's top transport official put airlines, airports and national transport authorities on notice Tuesday that he wants them to do more to address the "very serious" problem of airline passengers' lost luggage.
An initial survey of the problem conducted by the European Commission suggests new Europe-wide rules might be necessary to solve a long-standing frustration of air passengers everywhere — the millions of bags that are lost in transit, EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said.
"It's a very serious and very important problem ... The situation is far from satisfactory," he told reporters. "Some bags are just never recovered."
Luggage is lost or delayed for a host of different reasons, including faulty barcode readers, inattentive airline employees, theft and illegible luggage tags.
Tajani said the EU could draft proposals to ask member states to create special agencies to tackle angry traveler complaints that airlines and airports do not answer.
"To protect passengers' rights adequately, we should provide citizens with the appropriate instruments," Tajani said. "For the time being these instruments are not available."
The EU transport chief said the survey found the situation across Europe was dismal.
The survey released Tuesday cites statistics compiled by SITA Inc., a Geneva-based company that provides technology solutions for the air transport industry.
According to SITA, more than 32.8 million bags were lost worldwide in 2008. This is down from 42.4 million in 2007, despite stable passenger numbers of around 2.3 billion.
Each day nearly 90,000 bags — 10,000 in European airports — are lost or delayed. SITA also said that one in 3,000 passengers loses a bag permanently.
Lost luggage creates a substantial financial burden to both passengers and airlines, Tajani said. For example, the 20 percent — 10 million bags — decrease in lost luggage from 2007 to 2008 saved the air travel industry euro563 million ($800 million).
Passengers who are particularly worried about losing their luggage can always follow Tajani's example, who said Tuesday that he "only travels with hand luggage."