Airlines mishandled 23.1 million bags last year – that’s 6.5 bags per thousand passengers, the lowest rate ever recorded.
Talking baggage is on the way, which may cut the rate further, but in the meantime mishandled bags cost the industry well over USD 2.3 billion a year.
Firstly, what is mishandled? A bag is considered to have been mishandled if a report of a delayed, damaged or pilfered bag is recorded by either an airline or its handling company on behalf of the passenger and that is handled as a claim.
A mere 23.1 million bags fell into that category last year, compared to 24.3 million, in 2014. That’s a fall of 10.5% and the lowest rate ever recorded, according to the SITA Baggage Report 2016.
It still seems like an awful lot of bags.
The rate of mishandled bags was 6.5 bags per thousand passengers in 2015. Talking baggage should help. It doesn’t actually scream “help!” when lost, and it doesn’t phone home, but it can send text messages or app notifications.
SITA points out that passenger numbers have risen by 85% since 2003 and baggage has increased at the same level.
Increasing passenger volumes put pressure on the industry’s infrastructure, resources and baggage handling systems. Last year more than 3.5 billion passengers travelled. With no sign that this growth will slow, the industry is changing the way how it handles baggage. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is leading the way with its call for airlines to track each bag throughout its entire journey. IATA Resolution 753, to be implemented by airlines by June 2018, will mean that bags will be tracked at every point of the journey.
“It also means that passengers will be able track their bag, just like a parcel, which will reduce anxiety and allow them to take fast action if flights are disrupted and their bags are delayed,” says SITA chief executive, Francesco Violante.
Another area of change identified in SITA’s report is the growth of self-service bag services. Around 40% of airlines and airports now provide self-bag-tag printing at kiosks and more than three quarters are expected to do so by 2018. Almost a third of passengers expect to be using bag-drop – either a dedicated staffed station or fully self-service – in 2016.
How bags are tagged for their journey is also evolving. Over the past year there has been progress across the industry on permanent electronic tags which offer passengers independence and can reduce waiting times. Airlines are now trialling these tags which passengers update with their flight information for each journey via a mobile phone app. Home-printed bag tags, which offer passengers similar benefits, are a lower cost option being used by several airlines today.
Violante added: “The baggage statistics for 2015 are very encouraging, however in total, mishandled bags still cost the industry USD 2.3 billion last year. While this is a 3.75% reduction from 2014 it is clear that this must remain an area of focus for the industry. Passenger experience is paramount and improving baggage handling will deliver improvements for passengers along with cost savings. The technology is available to support increased tracking and improved tracing and SITA is working across the air transport community to deliver efficiencies.”
Edited by Peter Needham