An official government report states that US airlines managed to mishandle nearly 10,000 pieces of luggage DAILY last year. (CNN Story).
Based on this, I’ve been incredibly lucky with all the flying I’ve done. A few years ago I flew to New Orleans with Northwest and they managed to lose my golf bag which also contained the majority of my clothes. I compounded the problem by losing my baggage tag somewhere along the line which made the retreival process very difficult. Luckily, the NWA agent went above and beyond to track down the elusive clubs and they were delivered at 2am the next morning.
The easy answer is to carry on everything you need but you only need to sit through the hell of having a full flight, too much carry-on and too few spaces to realize that this is not a viable solution. Inevitably the last person onboard has 3 large bags and is forced to wander the entire aircraft looking for an empty bin. The rest of us, of course, are forced to suffer in silence wondering if we’ll be able to make our connection and if the asshat will cram the bag with his favorite bowling ball on top of our laptop and spare glasses. How they manage to get by the “strict” carry-on limits is beyond me. I’ve seen bags big enough to support a family of four on a two week vacation somehow make it to the cabin. You know full well that it didn’t fit in the that chrome sizing thingmajiggy prominently displayed at the gate. Somehow the overworked or bored gate agent fails to notice that someone is trying to bring a grand piano on board and everyone onboard pays the price.
I don’t have an answer so I’ll continue to play Russian Roulette.