Let’s make baggage smarter, with real-time bag tracking

Smarter baggage will continue to improve the travel experience and save money, with real-time bag tracking keeping passengers in the know,

Nick Gates, Director Baggage Portfolio, SITA

Connected bags

Nick Gates

In 2007 the total number of mishandled bags reached a high of 46.9 million and over the last nine years that number has been reduced by 50%. In the same period, the total cost of bag mishandling to the industry, which stood at $4.2 billion in 2007, has been cut by 45%.

Given technology’s role in these achievements, it’s no wonder that investment in baggage systems automation and processes remains high on the agenda.

In addition to delivering savings, these investments are making a massive difference to the reliability and speed of baggage delivery. As traveler numbers increase the industry’s continued sharp focus on smarter baggage is imperative (see the box below: ‘Smarter bag trends’).

Bag tracking

One industry priority right now is to keep track of passengers’ bags through all major stages of the bag journey.  

Such a development is crucial given IATA’s Resolution 753, which will come into effect in June 2018.

The Resolution requires IATA members to keep tabs on every item of baggage from start to finish, or in its own words, to “maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage.”

Asked in an interview whether bag tracking is becoming important to travelers, Laila Ben Salah, KLM’s Manager Product Innovation, was emphatic that “Customers are waiting for this. They want to have more control, to know where their baggage is and to have the same information as airlines.”


The requirement is to place baggage management and tracking information in the hands of passengers throughout their journeys. SITA’s new BagJourney service can help airlines and airports with providing this type of tracking information to their passengers.

In fact, it’s an innovative solution that enables passengers to track their bag, like they would a parcel. SITA BagJourney follows the bag, from check-in to final delivery, through multiple airports and multiple airlines.

IATA's buy-in

IATA continues to drive improvements in baggage handling and we welcome solutions, like SITA’s BagJourney, that will help airlines to comply with Resolution 753. What is clear is that, if airlines can use baggage data efficiently they will see results. When one major airline introduced 100% tracking they saw a 35% reduction in mishandling, so there will be a combination of savings and improvements in the passenger experience. 

Andrew Price, Head of Airport Operations Management, IATA

Two-thirds of passengers said they would definitely use such a service, so that they can act immediately and self-process missing bag reports at the airport, either using their smartphones or a kiosk.

With 97% of passengers carrying a smart mobile device when traveling, there’s now the huge potential for airlines and airports to provide them with real-time information about the status of their bags.

It means that passenger’s are no longer waiting for this information to be provided by the air transport industry.

Over the past two years there have been many products launched that enable passengers to track their luggage using GSM and GPS . To ensure airline, airports and passengers can share the same information, tracking data from such devices can be integrated into BagJourney.

Freed data

Ingeniously, BagJourney harnesses the 2.5 billion baggage information messages (BIMs) which SITA manages for the global airline and airport community in its BagMessage message distribution service. 

More than 220 airports and 500 airlines around the world use BagMessage to exchange information on the location of passengers’ baggage. The volume of data managed by SITA is growing at close to 20% a year.

BagJourney frees up this immense amount of data created about baggage, making it available so that it’s of value to the air transport community.

It’s also unique in being integrated with WorldTracer – the only truly global tracing and matching service of delayed bags. This allows a bag’s journey to continue to be tracked even if it’s mishandled.

API power

The new service is delivered to the community via an application programming interface (API) via www.developer.aero.

This allows airlines and airports to integrate it into to their existing systems quickly and easily, including services such as mobile updates which they might offer to passengers.

More potential

Since BagJourney’s development, more potential apps for tracking and analysis have surfaced through discussions with customers.

They include disruption management, mishandled information to crew while in-flight, mishandling charges proration and validation. Full integration with new WorldTracer applications is coming online in 2015 (WorldTracer Tablet). 

What’s clear is that the approach to releasing key operational data is sparking industry interest.

In the words of Ben Kepes, writing for Forbes, BagJourney “allows third parties to do interesting stuff with that data … I can’t wait to see the applications that will be built on top of it.”

Willing passengers

62% of passengers would use a self-process missing bag report system via their smartphone, if this were available


54% of passengers would use a self-process missing bag report system via a kiosk at the airport, if this were available

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Smarter bag trends


  • A fully managed and secure baggage distribution service that provides airlines and airports with a single worldwide solution for baggage messaging.
  • Offers a bi-directional connection through which the airline departure control systems (DCSs) and airport baggage system communicate.
  • Allows airlines and airports to connect over various legacy protocols eliminating the need for airport baggage system operators to manage network connections to multiple airline customers. In addition, it removes the need for airport-based hardware and on-site maintenance.


  • A technologically advanced response to baggage mishandling issues that provides functionalities for loading, reconciling, tracking, tracing and managing baggage operations.
  • It delivers real-time baggage status information, which helps resolve issues quickly and efficiently while reducing the numbers of mishandled bags by up to 20%.
  • BagManager is cloud-enabled to fulfill the needs of airports with low baggage volume or airlines that require outstation baggage management systems.


  • Informs baggage operations about every bag’s current location.
  • Predicts when a bag is at risk of missing its departure flight, allowing preventative action to be taken. This in turn helps to reduce the level of mishandled bags and minimizes their impact for on-time departures.


  • Developed in cooperation with IATA, WorldTracer is a global service that matches found bags with lost bag reports.
  • Provides a faster and more cost-effective way of reuniting passengers with their bags. As a global database, WorldTracer can match bags faster than any other solution, making it the ideal baggage management solution for its 440+ customers worldwide that currently use it.
Learn more

See also

The power of data ... released

The power of data releasedThe beauty of having simple application programming interface (API) access to a wealth of data is that this data can be reused over and over again across multiple applications and customer touch points.

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Where's the smart money going?

Where's the smart money going next?The 2015 Baggage Report revealed a big fall in mishandled baggage, thanks to massive industry investment. So where's the smart money going next?

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