AviationBaggage mishandling rates have doubled as passenger volumes surge.

Lost and found: Aviation tackles rising baggage mishandling

Airports and airlines are focusing on digitalisation and automation, investing in advanced technologies to improve baggage handling.
Airports and airlines are focusing on digitalisation and automation, investing in advanced technologies to improve baggage handling. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/dima

The air transport industry faces escalating baggage mishandling rates due to a surge in passengers. SITA's 2023 Baggage IT Insights report reveals a troubling increase from 2021 to 2022, with mishandled bags nearly doubling to 7.6 per thousand passengers.

A confluence of factors, including staff shortages, increased international travel, and airport congestion, presents significant challenges in managing and ensuring smooth handling of bags. To address this, the industry is focusing on digitalisation and automation, recognising the importance of advanced technologies that prioritise self-service and automation.

In 2022, delayed bags accounted for 80% of mishandled bags, while lost and stolen bags increased to 7%, and damaged and pilfered bags decreased to 13%.

This surge in mishandling rates is disheartening after more than a decade of efforts to reduce incidents. Between 2007 and 2021, the industry experienced a commendable decline of 59.7% in mishandled baggage. However, in 2022, the mishandling rate rose by 75%, reaching 7.6 bags per thousand passengers, due to post-Covid challenges such as staff shortages and operational strains.

Transfer bags, known for causing trouble, contributed to the problem in 2022. The proportion of bags delayed at transfer points rose to 42%, driven by the resurgence of international and long-haul travel. Loading errors and failures accounted for mishandling incidents, although the failure to load bags decreased by 3%. Loading errors doubled, highlighting the strains on baggage systems.

David Lavorel, CEO of SITA, expressed disappointment and emphasised the need to regain passengers' confidence in checking bags.

Airlines recognise the importance of providing real-time baggage status information for improved passenger experiences. Currently, 57% of airlines offer staff mobile access to this data, expected to increase to 84% by 2025. Moreover, 67% of airlines plan to provide passengers with direct access to real-time baggage status information, a substantial improvement from the current 25%.

To address the alarming mishandling rates, SITA introduced the WorldTracer Auto Reflight system. This solution automatically identifies bags at risk of missing connecting flights and rebooks them on the next available flight using existing bag tags. Passengers receive regular updates throughout the process, easing their concerns.

Automating reflight operations could lead to potential industry savings of up to US$30 million annually. The collaboration between Lufthansa and SITA aims to digitise the manual reflight process, demonstrating promising results in automatically reflighting up to 70% of Lufthansa's mishandled bags at Munich Airport.

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