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APEX Insight: SITA credits investments in new technologies and process improvements by airlines and airports for the 12.25-percent drop in instances of mishandled baggage over the past year. The aviation IT specialist expects the rate to drop even further over the next 18 months with IATA Resolution 753 coming into force in June 2018.

Instances of airlines mishandling baggage reached an all-time low last year. According to the SITA Baggage Report 2017, released today, 5.73 bags per thousand passengers went astray in 2016 – a 12.25-percent drop compared to the previous year and a 70-percent reduction over the past 10 years. This comes despite the fact that global passenger volume reached record levels of 3.77 billion in 2016.

SITA credits investments in new technologies and process improvements by global airlines and airports as the keys to having achieved this reduction. But the aviation IT specialist expects the rate of mishandled baggage to drop even further over the next 18 months with IATA Resolution 753 coming into force in June 2018. The policy will require its member airlines, which represent 80 percent of total scheduled global air traffic, to keep track of every item of baggage at four mandatory points: at check-in, during aircraft loading, during transfers between aircraft and on arrival as luggage are delivered back to passengers.

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The biggest ongoing weak spot in luggage handling involves passengers moving from one aircraft to another. In 2016, nearly half of all cases of delayed bags (47 percent) occurred in between connecting flights, particularly those with tight time frames. Misplaced baggage isn’t just annoying for passengers, though. SITA reports that recovering and returning lost bags costs the aviation industry $2.1 billion in 2016.

IATA and SITA believe RFID tracking is one of the technologies that could have a significant impact in making Resolution 753 an industry-wide reality. The SITA Baggage Report puts the cost of implementing RFID at $0.10 per passenger, while generating savings of $0.20 per passenger. “RFID brings new ways to address mishandling during transfer from one flight to another, one of the key areas identified by SITA and IATA where technology could help improve baggage handling rates,” says Peter Drummond, SITA’s portfolio director for Baggage. “RFID technology has the potential to save the industry more than $3 billion over the next seven years by improving baggage management and operations.”

While the benefits of end-to-end tracking are clear, Drummond says the industry’s implementation of the resolution will not be without challenges. “Broadly, three out of five airlines foresee issues to be addressed in relation to lack of understanding of the potential investment and ongoing costs required,” he said. “This includes lack of collaboration among airlines with key airports to determine plans and lack of awareness about airport readiness. “

“Everyone wins if we share data about the location of passengers’ bags.” — Peter Drummond, SITA

With the resolution’s deadline for implementation 13 months away, some airlines are moving faster than others. SITA’s research shows that three quarters of airlines are already investing or planning to comply with the resolution. Qatar Airways last month became the first airline to achieve Resolution 753 certification at its hub in Hamad International Airport. Last year, Star Alliance launched its Alliance IT hub for baggage with the aim of aligning back-end systems for its 28 member airlines, and making it easier for them to comply with the resolution.

“Collaboration on baggage tracking data between competing organizations – airlines and airports – is vital to create long-lasting improvements to industry operations and to ensure real benefits for passengers,” said Drummond. “Everyone wins if we share data about the location of passengers’ bags more effectively.”

Ari is the news editor at APEX Media.