The airlines are losing a third less luggage! The reason why costs all of us

It's official: U.S. airlines lost 1.3 million fewer bags in 2008 compared to the year before. We ought to be rejoicing.

But look behind the figures. One reason why their track record has improved is because Americans are entrusting them less baggage to begin with. Last year, most of the major carriers started charging us to check luggage--$15 for the first one, and often $50 for the second one. How did Americans react? Quite sensibly, and in a way we should have years ago: We started packing less and carrying on more. Before the fees, the average was 1.2 bags per flyer. Now it's less than one bag per passenger.