Did an airline misplace your or your client’s suitcase last year? Apparently, it happened more often than usual.
The global mishandled baggage rate spiked by 24 per cent to 4.35 bags per thousand passengers in 2021 as aviation began its initial stages of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the SITA Baggage IT Insights 2022, released Wednesday (May 25).
"Airlines, ground handlers and airports have downsized to maintain business viability during the pandemic, which has impacted resources and expertise dedicated to baggage management," said SITA, an aviation technology provider. "Unaddressed, this challenge may see the mishandling rate continue to creep up and become much higher than it was pre-pandemic."
The report shows passenger traffic has evolved since 2020, with most of the 2021 recovery being driven by domestic travel, but the resumption of international and long-haul flights is contributing to an increase in lost luggage.
Transfer bags accounted for most mishandled bags, SITA says.
An increase in long-haul flights with connections in 2021 has pushed up the bags delayed at transfer to 41 per cent, which is a four-point increase from 2020.
The mishandling rate at the global level on international routes is 8.7, yet only 1.85 for domestic routes.
In other words, at a global level, “the likelihood of mishandling a bag is about 4.7 times higher on international routes compared to domestic routes,” SITA said.
Last year, delayed bags accounted for 71 per cent of all mishandled luggage– a two points increase from 2020.
The number of lost and stolen bags increased slightly to six per cent, while those damaged and pilfered decreased to 23 per cent, SITA said.
“The industry now needs to do more with less. As we emerge from the pandemic, our customers' focus remains on safely managing the end-to-end transport of passengers' baggage, but now they must also reduce the total cost and training required. There is significant pressure to increase operational efficiency, which is accelerating digitalization,” said David Lavorel, CEO, SITA.
In 2021, investment in self-service initiatives continued to increase and many airports and almost all airlines are prioritizing touchless bag tagging options that rely on kiosks and passengers' mobile devices.
Implementation of unassisted bag drop is increasing, with 90 per cent of airlines and three-quarters of airports planning to make touchless unassisted self-bag drop available by 2024, SITA says.
Digitalization also ensures that the recovery progresses efficiently, saving resources and ensuring operations can quickly adapt to fluctuating passenger numbers.
“There is no better way to ensure efficiency in baggage operations than to avoid mishandling in the first place, preventing the additional costs and resources required to repatriate bags to their owners,” SITA said.
SITA says it is working to refine its baggage portfolio to do just that, with the introduction of solutions such as SITA WorldTracer Lost and Found Property, an artificial intelligence-enabled solution that aimed to quickly return items left behind on aircraft or in airports to their owners.
Using technology such as computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing, WorldTracer Lost and Found Property searches a global database of images and descriptions to match the found item to a missing item report.
“We will continue to collaborate and support the industry to reduce mishandled baggage rates while driving operational efficiencies and sustainable solutions when needed the most,” Lavorel said.