Baggage Report 2014

Baggage delivery has hit an all-time high. The 2014 Baggage Report shows the air transport industry's success in tackling a big area of passenger dissatisfaction. The good news comes as passenger numbers continue to rise.

In 2013, the air transport industry saw a dramatic improvement in airline baggage handling as the rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers dropped 21.2% from the previous year. So says the latest annual Baggage Report produced by SITA in association with 'Air Transport World'.

The drop in mishandling happened even though passenger numbers increased by 5.1% to 3.13 billion over 2012-2013. It means only 6.96 bags per thousand passengers are now being mishandled, down from 8.83 in 2012, says the survey.

That’s just half the rate reported 10 years ago, despite a 65.6% rise in passenger numbers over those 10 years.

Big savings

Today, the annual cost of to the global airline industry of 22 million mishandled bags is US$2bn, 20% less than in 2012. In 2007, over 46 million mishandled bags cost the industry $4 billion.

That means meaning the industry has cut $2bn in annual costs in seven years by improving the baggage handling process.

‘Hot bags’

Most baggage mishandling is due to delayed baggage, accounting for 81.2% in 2013. But within the delayed baggage figures, by far biggest cause of mishandling is transfer baggage. Today, that amounts to 45% of all delayed baggage, or in absolute terms, approximately nine million bags. This is a remarkable 23.2% lower than 2012.

So why the recent improvement in baggage transfer performance? The answer lies in major industry investment in areas such as messaging reliability, which enables bags with short connection times to be identified before they arrive at the airport.

Better segregation of these ‘hot bags’ in the aircraft and smart mobile devices, such as tablets for key operational staff, have also played an important role.


On top of the investment is a positive industry attitude that sees continued collaboration helping to drive the strong baggage performance and a cross-industry effort to pursue technology innovations.

”The industry has joined together to tackle the problem of mishandled bags, and we have seen great results. There is still more work to do, but 2013 was the best year ever, showing the benefits of this collaboration,” according to SITA’s CEO Francesco Violante.

Industry drive

A factor in driving major change was IATA’s Baggage Improvement Program action plan from 2008 to 2012, with its aim being to reduce the mishandled bag rate by 50%. Over the period the program helped the industry cut the annual number of mishandled bags by 10.5 million.

Taking on the mantle after 2012, IATA’s InBag program aims to help the industry to further tackle costs by embracing more self-service, efficient processes and systems, a modern data infrastructure and more (see ‘InBag– driving down costs’ section below).


The all-time high results clearly show the advantages of technology innovation and advances in the area of baggage. The airline industry has introduced more tracking of bags through the handling systems and at the various stages of processing them onto aircraft. Scanning of barcodes on bag-tags enables greater understanding of what’s happening to bags so that airports can identify and react to problems.

In the meantime, airports have introduced destination-coded vehicle systems to move bags around quickly and ensure minimum connect times are met.

“The industry continues to innovate by developing more self-service processes to save time for passengers and create greater operational efficiencies,” adds Violante, “with electronic bag-tag trials and airport-based self-service bag-drops among the current focus of attention.”

The adoption of ’pull technology’ adds to the effort, enabling flights to be built more intelligently. Early bags are stored and then called forward by the system, along with on-time bags to a make-up area, where all the bags for the flight arrive within a specific time period.

Instead of bags arriving over a period of one or more hours, all bags arrive at the baggage make-up area within a much shorter time, here baggage staff or robots quickly build the containers for a flight.


SITA's 2013 Airport and Airline IT Trends Surveys underline the commitment of airports and airlines to investments that provide passengers with more baggage information and full self-service at check-in.

  • Over the next three years more than two-thirds of airlines and airports plan to install full self-service bag-drop machines, up from the 10% that offer the service today.
  • By the end of 2016 over 60% of airlines expect to be sending bag location updates and to enable missing bag reports to be sent via smartphones.
  • Around a quarter of airlines provide real-time bag status information to operations personnel to support customers; the majority of airlines plan to do so by 2016.

Tagging and bad drop

As investment continues, several airlines and airports are making headway, introducing tagging and bag-drop initiatives in 2013.

  • British Airways launched a service for passengers to self-tag kiosk-printed bag-tags for flights departing Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
  • Iberia introduced ‘MyBagTag’ allowing passengers to download and print bag-tags from the airline's website. These are inserted into reusable clear plastic envelopes supplied by the airline.
  • Geneva Airport started trialing the use of three self-service tag-and-bag locations for Swiss International Airlines, Lufthansa and selected Star Alliance passengers.
  • And AirAsia launched Malaysia's first baggage self-tagging service at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang for all AirAsia and AirAsia X flights to reduce long waiting times in the terminal.

What’ clear is that initiatives are paying off, both for the passenger and the industry. In the meantime, SITA continues to play a major part in the ‘all-time baggage high’ through constant investment in intelligent technology to improve the bag handling process.

Download The Baggage Report 2014, including customer stories and regional breakdowns.

Read the report

InBag – driving down costs

IATA estimates that the industry is spending US$31bn on moving bags annually. Its InBag program aims to help the industry reduce baggage handling costs in six ways:


    • Promoting self-service through electronic and home-printed bag-tags and providing the standards for electronic bag-claim receipts.


    • Using a baggage quality metric set by airlines, airports and ground handlers to focus attention on performance.


    • Updating the data infrastructure with an XML data model to allow consistent baggage data representation between partners.


    • Using technology such as scanning for tracking to increase the efficiency of baggage handling operations.


    • Increasing security efficiency by enabling the sharing of security information between more airports.


  • Standardizing the off-airport acceptance of baggage to reduce peak-time baggage flows.

Smart baggage

Enhancing customer service

More passengers want to use their mobile devices as a self-service tool to track their baggage while travelling from one destination to the next. A mobile app will alert them to the location of their baggage.


SITA is in the vanguard of the air transport industry's progress towards giving passengers more access to information about their bags, taking full advantage of mobile capabilities. This will enable the self-processing by passengers of delayed bag claims. At the same time, the industry will be more able to deal with mishandled bag claims.


SITA's BagConnect ensures that the transfer airport receives all the necessary information automatically in its systems to enable bags to make connections more smoothly.


SITA’s BagSmart, introduced in 2013 with a major airline alliance, delivers predictive warnings to airlines and their agents of possible delayed bags – enabling them to proactively intervene to prevent flight delays as well as manage end-customer expectations.


New capabilities continue to be introduced to reduce problem areas further. Coming soon, SITA’s BagJourney – an application programming interface (API) – lets passengers track their bags throughout their journey. Data is made available to airlines and airports, which can then be conveyed to passengers.


In the meantime, SITA’s self-service bag drop is being adopted at numerous airports, including Brisbane and Melbourne where passengers now drop their bags off in as little as 25 seconds. At present, just 13% of airports offer unstaffed bag drops, while 45% expect to do so by 2015, according to the Airport IT Trends Survey 2013.


These are all part of a comprehensive SITA baggage portfolio.  Today, SITA’s baggage management services are relied on by 200 airports and 500 airlines worldwide, while more than 2,200 airport locations use SITA’s WorldTracer, a global service that matches found bags with lost bag reports developed in cooperation with IATA.

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