Hi-Tech Solutions Help Airlines Lose Fewer Bags

April 19, 2018

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Airlines are misplacing fewer passenger bags, with the rate dropping by 70.5 percent over the past 10 years, SITA’s 2018 baggage report showed.

In a decade where passenger growth pushed the number of people flying to over 4 billion in 2017, global airlines mishandled 5.57 bags per thousand passengers. That was the lowest rate of mishandled bags ever recorded.

Information technology company SITA said mishandled bags represent a minority of the 4.6 billion bags carried each year, but cost the industry an estimated USD$2.3 billion in 2017. Passenger numbers have risen by 64 percent since 2007, but the mishandling rate per thousand passengers has dropped by 70.5 percent, it said.

The total number of mishandled bags in 2017 was 22.7 million, a 4.1 percent increase on the previous year, but as SITA pointed out it was still lower than the overall passenger traffic growth rate of 7.6 percent.

Regions that saw the lowest rates of mishandled bags were Asia Pacific and the United States.

Asia Pacific airlines registered an average mishandling rate of just 1.92 bags per thousand passengers, well below the global average but 6 percent higher than the previous year.

In the US, the Department of Transportation reported that the rate of mishandled bags fell to a record low of 2.4 per thousand domestic passengers.

“In 2017, despite the significant operational challenges of coping with three major hurricanes, a power outage in Atlanta, multiple Federal Aviation Administration ground delay programmes in New York and elsewhere, and some airline outages, airlines continued to improve upon previous years’ progress in handling checked baggage,” Airlines for America VP John Heimlich said.

SITA noted the technical advances in the industry, with real-time notifications and fast self-service bag drop becoming increasingly available. Baggage tracking will become more reliable with the introduction and improvement of scanning technologies, it reported.

One such innovation is RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, where luggage tags contain electronically-stored information in the label which can be easily scanned at each stage of the journey from check-in to baggage claim belts. The technology will also allow passengers to track their own bags using apps, although not all airlines are expected to provide that facility.

The definition of a mishandled bag is a report of a delayed, damaged or pilfered bag which is recorded by either an airline or its handling company on behalf of the passenger and that is handled as a claim.