Airlines Will Lose 30 Million Bags In 2006

March 21, 2006

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Some 30 million pieces of airline luggage -- about one percent of the bags passengers check in -- will go astray this year, the air travel industry's information technology systems provider SITA said on Tuesday.

The Geneva-based company, which tracks baggage in 220 countries and territories, said virtually all missing bags would be returned to their owners within an average of 31 hours after being reported missing.

Around 204,000 pieces -- a minute proportion of the 3 billion bags expected to be checked in at world airports by around 2 billion passengers in 2006 -- would never be found after getting lost in the system or stolen.

Francesco Violante, managing director of SITA INC, the commercial arm of SITA, said the air transport industry spent about USD$2.5 billion a year tracking down and returning luggage and compensating passengers for lost items.

While the present rapid growth in air travel -- about 6 percent a year -- is welcome, Violante said, "it has to be better managed if airlines and airports want to improve the passenger experience by eliminating delays from the system".

SITA, which along with the global airlines body IATA operates a baggage-tracing system used by 391 carriers, issued its report for an exhibition in Paris.

More and more bags are going missing because of airport congestion, short transition times, frequent switches from one airline to another during a journey, tight security rules and rising passenger and baggage volumes, SITA said in the report.

More sophisticated systems linking bags and owners and more self-service check-in kiosks could help the industry keep better tabs on luggage, SITA added.

The report said the chief cause of late-arriving bags was mishandling when luggage is transferred between flights. This accounted for 61 percent of hold-ups in 2005.

Next came failure to load bags at the original departure point, which made up 15 percent of delays. The attaching of incorrect destination tags at check-in accounted for just 3 percent, according to the report.

(Reuters)