Airline baggage handling improved last year with the rate of mishandled bags dropping 1.78%, according to the ninth annual SITA Baggage Report. In 2012, 8.83 bags per thousand passengers were mishandled, down from 8.99 in 2011. The air transport industry achieved this improvement despite a 4.5% rise in passenger numbers to 2.95 billion; higher passenger volumes inevitably increase pressure on airport baggage operations.
One area the industry is focusing on is improving baggage transfers between flights. This is traditionally the 'pinch point' in the baggage handling process and the leading cause of delay. In 2012, SITA's report showed an improvement in this area with transfer bags, as a proportion of all mishandled bags, down 9% from 2011. This is a result of airlines and airports investing in processes and systems to improve both baggage handling efficiency and the speed with which bags travel through the airport.
Francesco Violante, CEO, SITA, said: "The industry has made a concerted effort to improve baggage handling operations in recent years through significant investment and innovation. Over the past six years, the rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers has fallen 53.2%, saving the industry US$2.1 billion in 2012 compared to 2007. While there is still work to be done because any mishandled bag is unwelcome; the six-year trend shows that our collaborative efforts to improve baggage handling are paying off to the benefit of both passengers and airlines."
A mishandled bag is defined as checked baggage that is delayed, damaged, pilfered, lost or stolen. In 2012, passengers reported 26.04 million mishandled bags. Delayed bags, accounted for 82.9% of all mishandled bags, down from 2011. Damaged or pilfered bags represented 12.9% of mishandled bags, while 4.2% were reported lost or stolen.
Violante added: "Effective bag management plays an important role in improving passenger satisfaction and contributing to the overall passenger experience. With the number of air passengers expected to reach more than 3.6 billion by 2016, we need to continue to work together to improve baggage handling operations.
"At SITA, we are constantly investing in new technologies to meet passenger needs and ensure our industry partners have the best baggage handling tools available. For example, SITA BagSmart provides a predictive warning of missed bags, helping to reduce mishandled transfer bags by up to 60% and preventing baggage-related flight delays."
SITA has led the air transport industry in baggage tracking and tracing solutions for more than 20 years. Today, more than 125 airports and 500 airlines worldwide use its baggage management solutions. By facilitating communications between airlines and local baggage handling and reconciliation systems, SITA ensures that bags reach their correct destination. Its proprietary BagMessage system delivered more than 1.5 billion messages between airline departure control systems and automated baggage systems in 2012. And more than 2,200 airport locations use WorldTracer, SITA's system that traces millions of bags globally each year.