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Over the past twelve months, I have seen an increase in the number of airlines introducing tracking points for baggage at key stages in the passenger journey in response to IATA’s Resolution 753 – this investment is already having a very positive impact.

In April, our analysis of bag tracking records was published in the SITA 2019 Baggage IT Insights report. It highlights the fact that when bags are tracked at two key points in their journey – check-in and loading on to the aircraft – mishandling rates were improved by between 38% to 66% in baggage mishandling. Additional tracking points can further improve these figures.

Four key points to track bags

IATA’s Resolution 753 has been introduced to encourage airlines to further reduce baggage mishandling by putting in place cross-industry tracking for every bag’s journey. It outlines bag tracking at four points in a bag’s journey:

  • Passenger handover to the airline
  • Loading on to the aircraft
  • Delivery to the transfer area
  • Returning the bag to the passenger in arrivals, or in the event of a mishandled bag to the passenger's location.

As part of the Resolution, airlines need to share this tracking data with journey partners as required.

Most airlines track bags at check-in, but few are doing it for the whole journey. Tracking across various points in the bag’s journey not only delivers greater transparency and operational efficiencies to the airlines – it has also been seen to significantly reduce mishandled bags. This makes for a positive passenger experience.

Transfers, however, remain the pinch point – accounting for 45% of all delayed bags in 2018. It is the most complex step in the bag’s journey – often changing not only aircraft, but carriers. If the ATI can address this issue, baggage mishandling rates will further improve.

Passenger numbers keep rising

The resolution, and the airline and airport initiatives it has spurred comes on the back of continued pressure from passenger growth and the number of bags that have to be processed – while airlines and airports work to reduce mishandled bag numbers. In 2018, 4.36 billion travelers checked in a total of 4.27 billion bags. IATA forecasts that passenger numbers will nearly double to 7.8 billion by 2036, however, airports and infrastructures will not grow at the same pace. This will put further strain on the baggage journey – which will need to be relieved by improved data capture technology including RFID, computer vision and machine learning.

Sharing tracking data

Sharing tracking data is enabling airlines to come up with the innovative apps that passengers are demanding. Last year, 26% of passengers received baggage collection notifications on their mobiles. SITA found their satisfaction level was 8.6% higher than using traditional voice and screen messages.

As the stream of real-time tracking data grows, so will the services that can be offered to passengers on their mobile devices. According to our research, the top three on the passenger wish list are end-to-end baggage tracking, bag collection on arrivals and reporting lost or stolen bags.

Airline investment growing

Real-time baggage tracking via mobile apps is set to be a major investment area for airlines over the next three years. Aegean Airlines, for example, has developed an automated delayed baggage notification app to inform a passenger if their bag has not travelled with them. The passenger can fill in a form online and leave the airport, Aegean Airlines will notify them when their bag is retrieved.

Aegean now has full history of the vast majority of its bags scanned as of April 2019, which it plans to use in app services. Currently, 80% of mishandled bag cases are solved in the first 24 hours, which shows that tracking provides insight into where bags are and enables them to be repatriated faster.

S7 Airlines sees tracking as a way of helping to keep passengers informed and improve customer satisfaction. It has seen a 30% growth in passengers using its app and sees baggage tracking as a way of pushing mobile app services to its passengers to enhance their travel experience.

More bags bring more challenges

Passenger numbers are set to grow exponentially over the coming years. The ATI needs to adopt the very latest in tracking technology to make the next big reduction in the rate of mishandled bags to drive more accurate baggage delivery and cope with the increasing amount of bags that is coming its way.

Looking forward

If I look at our industries performance overall, there is good news. The total number of mishandled bags has plummeted since 2007 to 24.9 million bags, which is a decrease of 47%. As airlines continue to roll out IATA Res 753 and willingness for airlines and airports to adopt new technology, the air transport industry (ATI) will reduce further the number of mishandled bags and the impact of those that are mishandled.

For more on this topic

Listen to our on demand webinar, which will answer the question Do tracking points improve baggage delivery? And hear the the views of  Timos Korosis, AEGEAN Airlines, DCS Administrator  and Andrew Price, IATA, Head, Global Baggage Operations.

Alternatively read their guest blogs:

Timos Korosis, AEGEAN Airlines: Baggage tracking investment pays off in short time

Andrew Price, IATA, : IATA has its sights on a 25% reduction in the global baggage mishandling rate


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