NO one who travels frequently by air or who regularly welcomes visitors who have done so will be surprised to learn that airlines are mishandling and losing luggage at an ever-increasing rate. A report just published by the UK's Air Transport Users Council shows that the world's airlines lost irretrievably more than one million bags in 2007 - the equivalent of one bag for every two thousand passengers. In the same period more than 42 million pieces of luggage were temporarily misplaced - a serious increase on the 2005 figure of 30 million. These figures need to be placed against the increase in the number of travellers - but also against the often-claimed improvement in the handling of luggage through the latest computer systems. The report also returns to the old problem of the lengths that some airlines will go to in order to avoid paying compensation for lost or damaged luggage.

Ryanair is probably the most frequently mentioned in this connection; its policy seems to be to offer just 15 pounds in compensation for a temporarily lost bag but that is a quite inadequate sum for anyone needing to replace essential items for a one or two night stay. Just as with compensation for cancelled or seriously delayed flights, the policy of most airlines seems to be to avoid if at all possible the legal liabilities which have been in force since 2004.