A resolution for baggage

With less than a year to go before IATA Resolution 753 kicks in, are we on the brink of a revolution in baggage tracking?

There’s no doubt that baggage handling has massively improved in the past 10 years. While the number of passengers has soared to 3.77bn, the total number of mishandled bags has been halved. The result is fewer disgruntled passengers and a handy annual savings of US$2.1bn. But the reality is that almost 21.6m bags are still being mishandled every year. And with passenger numbers expected to double between 2016 and 2030 to seven billion, the need for a radical change has been recognized and actioned.

That’s the context for IATA Resolution 753, which member airlines must implement by June 2018. The requirement is deceptively simple: to track each bag onto the aircraft, into arrivals areas and even transfer systems, and to share the tracking information with all those involved in delivering the baggage back to the passenger at the final destination.

Although the Resolution is not specific on the point, it is also expected that, in time, passengers will be able to track their bags, in a similar way to tracking a parcel. That will lead to happier passengers and, if things do go wrong, empower them to be involved in the bags’ recovery.

IATA’s 2016 Global Passenger Survey reports that passengers are keen to see the entire baggage process “shaken up”, with almost two-thirds wanting to track their bag throughout the journey, while SITA’s 2017 Passenger IT Trends Survey notes that 64% of passengers would definitely use an app to track their bags in real-time on their mobile device. 

Baggage tracking is a key way that our industry can continue to drive down costs and improve service at a fundamental level. It is also central to having a capability where airlines can obtain the information needed for passengers when their bags are mishandled regardless of which carriers were involved in the carriage of the bag. Resolution 753 is mandatory for all members, and demands tracking in key locations. The aim of the resolution is to reduce mishandling and therefore increase passenger satisfaction by first recording and subsequently exchanging baggage tracking information.

Andrew Price, Head of Global Baggage Operations, IATA

 

Simple & effective

There are different technology approaches being explored to provide the ‘shake-up’, from digital luggage tags using GPS trackers linked via an app, to premium services providing a door-to-door tracked service. However, a much simpler solution using existing technology and a global presence is being implemented – Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. This can accurately track passengers’ baggage in real time across key points in the journey (in conformity with Resolution 753) – and in the process enable the air transport industry to save more than US$3bn over the next seven years.

SITA and IATA have recently published a detailed business case for the concept – RFID for Baggage Tracking – which they estimate could reduce the number of mishandled bags by an extra 25% by 2022. The benefits of RFID are already being recognized by industry players. Prominent among them is Delta Air Lines, which is moving from bar-coded tags to RFID for all the millions of bags which it handles annually. Of particular interest is the ability to address mishandling during transfer between flights, one of the most significant weak points in the baggage process. 

Savings in three areas

The report notes that initial deployments of RFID have shown bags tracked at a more than 99% success rate, translating into a drastic reduction of mishandled bags. At the same time, it allows higher automation, proactive care and reduced manual operations – and can be deployed for as little as US$0.1 per passenger on average, while generating savings of more than US$0.2 per passenger.

The savings are expected in three areas. First, a rapidly growing improvement to end-to-end tracking, with a reduced cost of finding and returning mishandled bags, as well as efficiency gains in baggage operations. Second, fewer delayed flights as a result of improvements in aircraft loading/off-loading. And third, reduced deployment and operational costs linked to the addition of new tracking points required under IATA Resolution 753.

With some major airlines and airports already introducing RFID technology, combined with its compatibility with existing barcode technology, adoption of RFID across all airports could provide a positive return for airlines, both in cost savings and passenger satisfaction.

Smoothing the path

Andrew Price, Head of Global Baggage Operations at IATA, says that he expects Resolution 753 to have a major impact on bag handling performance. “From 2018, with the introduction of industry-wide baggage tracking through Resolution 753, we are expecting to have a reduction in the number of bags that actually need tracing, because the number of bags mishandled should reduce,” he said.

“Resolution 753 applies to airlines only, but the implementation can also be an airport issue. It would be foolish to have every airline at a busy airport each introducing their own tracking solutions, when the places being tracked are often common use. There are other situations of course, single occupancy terminals for instance are not likely to be using a shared infrastructure approach.”

To smooth Resolution 753 implementation, IATA’s Baggage Working Sub Group on Tracking and Tracing has published a guide that will drive a common industry approach to collecting, storing and sharing the tracking information for baggage. The implementation guide was written by the joint IATA/A4A Baggage Working Group and approved by the IATA Airport Services Committee on February 13, 2017.

SITA's research into RFID and baggage tracking is part of its ongoing investment in research for the benefit of the entire air transport community. Baggage tracking is one of the five community research programs that SITA has launched to address some of the industry’s most pressing challenges. The others are identity management; the facilitation of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC); an industry-wide disruption warning system; and enhancing cybersecurity across the industry.

BagJourney

SITA BagJourney is the only system that builds on SITA’s baggage data delivery services – BagMessage and Type-B – and their global coverage, to provide a precise picture of a bag’s current location, no matter how many airlines or airports handle it.

The system makes information available, in a structured and easy way to consume, to airlines and airports that need to enhance passenger’s experience and reduce ground handling costs, while complying with IATA’s Resolution 753.

Bags are permanently tracked, making it easier to quickly recover and reunite bags with their owners in situations where they are mishandled. As the data collection is free of charge, BagJourney can become the core platform of a ready-to-go solution for airlines looking for a cost-effective way of fulfilling Resolution 753.

BagJourney is available through SITA's ATI Cloud.

Learn more about BagJourney

Data from Baggage Report 2016, based on 2015 data traffic. Baggage Report 2017 due Q2.

Mar 2017