The journey to baggage handling utopia | SITA

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The journey to baggage handling utopia

Published on  12 July by Peter Drummond , Portfolio Director Baggage, SITA
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For well over a decade baggage mishandling figures have been falling – but with passenger numbers on the increase they’re now flat-lining, which means IATA Resolution 753 has come just at the right time.

Back in 2014 baggage processing and management systems were among airports’ top investment priorities. Much of this was down to the fact that IATA had initiated Resolution 753. This requires its members to “maintain an accurate inventory of baggage” by monitoring its acquisition and delivery.

Fast forward to 2018 and Resolution 753 has come into force. Most airlines have a plan in place now, with 46% of them expecting to be 75% compliant by the end of this year, according to SITA’s Air Transport IT Trends Survey.


However, I don’t think Resolution 753 will make an enormous impact immediately, except with airlines who haven’t used bag tracking before, such as Bahamasair. The airline says that it’s seen an impressive 60% drop in the number of claims due to baggage mishandling.

Airlines that already use tracking solutions are taking the opportunity to fill any obvious gaps in their systems. We expect them to see around a 25 to 30% improvement. But it will take time to make these changes to the systems. 

AI brains to track baggage

Today, according to our research, 47% of baggage mishandling is still down to airline transfers. The real improvements in baggage handling triggered by Resolution 753 will happen when we can feed the data it generates into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This will allow us to plug in weather event information, for example, to determine what resources are needed to ensure thousands of bags aren’t left on the tarmac and get on the right flights.

The advantage of AI is that it’s learning all the time. It will allow us to make predictions and see new patterns emerge. AI will have the power to tell us things about baggage handling and capacity we haven’t even considered.

Big data – improving customer service

Access to more data through Resolution 753 will also help take the passenger journey to new heights in terms of customer satisfaction.

Take ‘service recovery’ performance. You might have had the best journey in the world, but if you arrive to find your bag isn’t at its destination, it’s all ruined. Everything in your experience is now a minus. A ‘utopian bag situation’ would be making this baggage recovery even before the passenger is aware of it.

The flight attendant, with access to bag tracking data on a tablet, could quickly inform the passenger that their luggage has been delayed, explain that it’s following on and then possibly even upgrade them. This would help turn the situation into a positive one.

It’s also not commonly known that the cost for each bag claim, if its delay can’t be stopped, can be reduced by pinpointing exactly where it is. This allows for the bag to be repatriated faster and lowers the expense claim for the passenger. So in essence you have a win/win situation.

RFID on the horizon … for some

The march of technology doesn’t stop here. IATA has recently voted to develop a standard within the next 12 months for using RFID tagging. It will hope to put an end to barcode readers struggling to read crumpled luggage labels, make it easier for baggage to be tracked and allow passengers to get updates on their bags via an app.

Delta Air Lines is one airline that has already proved RFID tagging can be a cost-effective solution. Rolling out RFID tagging across the board will probably be a slow process. RFID tagging will require new technologies to be deployed worldwide. The bigger airlines that own their infrastructure will see the business case, so having across-the-board agreement as the way to go will make it easier for airports and smaller airlines to see it too.

Blue skies ahead

Smart technologies are required to improve baggage handling as the appeal of air travel shows no sign of slowing down. But we all need to wait and see how AI will enable us to use the data that Resolution 753 generates. It will allow us to arrive at answers to questions we haven’t even thought of yet.

Of course, we will never have zero mishandled baggage – even passengers who take their own luggage on board lose it. But one thing is certain: we’re well on our way to a creating a baggage handling utopia.

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