The amount of checked baggage delayed, damaged or pilfered dropped by over a fifth last year, according to SITA, the air transport communications and IT specialists.
It says the total number of "mishandled" bags fell to to 32.8 million from 42.4 million bags in 2007.
Improvements in systems are part of the reason. It is also likely that new airline charges for checked baggage, notably in the US, have persuaded more passengers to fly with carry on bags only.
The figures cover a year when passenger numbers worldwide showed hardly any growth but before the recession began to drive travellers away.
SITA operates WorldTracer, an automated system for tracing missing bags which is used by over 440 airlines and ground handling companies worldwide. Last year the WorldTracer database showed a mishandling rate of 14.28 bags per thousand passengers worldwide, compared to 18.86 per thousand in 2007.
The vast majority of these bags were returned to their owners in less than 48 hours and only a small fraction - 0.32 bags per thousand passengers, or 736,000 bags, - failed to show up at all. That compared with 0.57 per thousand passengers, or 1.28 million bags the previous year.
SITA claims this improvement reduced industry losses by some £550 million last year.