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New baggage rules and IT promise to end lost luggage

Published on  02 May by Sebastien Fabre , Vice President, Solutions at Airport, SITA
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It’s not long to go before IATA Resolution 753 comes into force in June 2018, pushing airports to ensure their baggage handling systems are compliant.

This resolution is set to make baggage handling operations take a serious look at the challenges they face in their digital transformation and where they can start resolving problems with technology.

IATA set up its Simplifying the Business initiative in 2004 to remove complexity, enhance customer convenience and reduce industry costs. Resolution 753 aims to improve baggage operations for the industry by maintaining a “chain of custody” as bags go through the various stages of their journey.

Four tracking points

The resolution is mandatory for IATA members, which represent 85% of global air traffic. Airlines will be expected to set up four tracking points of the bag (check in, loading, transfer, arrival) and share that data with all those involved in a bag’s transportation from beginning to end.

The result is an enhanced customer experience and reduced costs in tracing and delivering missing or delayed baggage.

The resolution is already having a very positive impact. Airlines are providing apps that offer real-time baggage notification to passengers, for example.

And this is only the beginning. Resolution 753 will further encourage investment in technology – sealing the foundations for what will be the baggage handling systems of the future.

Getting smarter about baggage

We estimate that more than 4.65 billion bags are already being handled by the industry. In the next 20 years, IATA is forecasting air passengers will increase to a staggering 7.8 billion, from 4 billion today.  

Predictions vary, but this could mean at least twice the number of bags to track. As many carriers now charge baggage fees, customers expect their luggage to be at their destination. This is where technology comes into its own.

RFID tagging has already significantly improved baggage tracking. RFID tags are still readable if they get wet or creased, for example. The Hong Kong Airport Authority put the read rate of their baggage tag barcodes integrated with an RFID chip at 99 per cent against 80 per cent with traditional tags. This is a huge leap forward in efficiency if you consider Hong Kong International Airport handles 170,000 bags per day.

RFID also brings with it new ways to address the age-old problem of mishandled baggage during transfer from one flight to another. Passengers, for example, can track their bags via an app. Bag drop off can be automated, so passengers don’t have to queue.

In addition, RFID has the attraction of being inexpensive to implement at around $0.10 per passenger, against a generated saving of $0.20 per passenger. This all makes RFID a no-brainer for baggage handling operations.

Data gives AI a big opportunity

The bag tracking data generated and collected under the resolution’s requirements will be invaluable when combined with artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as machine learning and predictive analytics.

Together they will accelerate the efficiencies of baggage handling. But for the while industry to benefit from AI, it will need to start collaborating and sharing quality data. Without data, AI can’t function properly.

Recent AI innovations in the air transport sector are laying the groundwork for more sophisticated AI applications in the future. Several airlines, for example, have developed apps for Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. Others have been looking at taxi queue analytics and autonomous vehicles to ferry passengers inside airports.

AI can bring as many benefits to baggage operations as to the supply chain and logistics industries. Consider Fedex, which has been investigating automated packaged delivery and platooning, where semi-autonomous trucks are linked in a convoy using connectivity and automated driving support systems. Or CEVA, which has been working with IBM Watson to make its supply chain “cognitive”, for greater visibility, automation and predictability.

More can be done and beyond the mishandling. We have the promising technology and the expertise to improve operational processes further. I am excited to see how 2018 is a turning point for the industry. 

For more

Read SITA’s White Paper, ‘Intelligent tracking, a baggage management revolution’.

Read the 2018 Baggage Report.

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