And things will only get better, says SITA, as the industry focuses on technology investments and prepares for a step-change in handling by June 2018.
According to the SITA Baggage Report 2017, released today, the rate of mishandled bags was 5.73 bags per thousand passengers in 2016, down 12.25% from the previous year and the lowest ever recorded.
This is good news for the rising number of passengers, which last year hit an all-time high of 3.77 billion.
Since 2007, the rate of mishandled baggage has fallen 70% due to investment in technologies and process improvements by the world’s airlines and airports.
Over the coming 18 months, this is expected to improve even further. IATA members, the majority of the world’s airlines, have adopted a resolution requiring every piece of checked baggage to be tracked along its journey by June 2018.
Ilya Gutlin, SITA president, Air Travel Solutions, says: “It is frustrating for passengers and airlines when bags go missing but the days of not knowing where your bag is will soon to be a thing of the past.
"We are on the brink of a new era in airline baggage management because the world’s airlines are committing to track baggage throughout its journey.
"This requires data capture, management and sharing across airlines, airports and ground handlers giving a better view of where each piece of luggage is at every stage. At SITA we are providing several tracking innovations that will allow the air transport community to scale up their tracking capabilities without massive capital investments.”
The IATA Resolution 753 is coming into force in June 2018 and from then every bag must be tracked and recorded at four mandatory points – at check-in; aircraft loading; at transfer between carriers; and on arrival as the bag is delivered back to the passenger.
When this is in place airlines will be able to share the information with their passengers and code share partners allowing them to track their bag, just like a parcel.
Having this information means passengers will stay informed and all parties involved in their journey can take action if flights are disrupted and their bags are delayed.
A critical pinch-point in the bag handling process is when passengers and their luggage need to move from one aircraft to another, or from one carrier to another.
Bags have a higher risk of being mishandled at this time, particularly if connections are tight. In 2016, close to half (47%) of delayed bags were in the process of being transferred.
Introducing mandatory tracking at this point of the process will provide real-time data that can be used to avoid delays, insists SITA.
Mishandled baggage negatively affects both the passenger experience and the airline’s finances and SITA’s report shows that the financial costs remain high despite the 12.25% drop in the mishandled rate.
SITA reports that the global bill for recovering and reuniting passengers with their bags was in the order of $2.1 billion in 2016.
Gutlin notes: “We are using technology to transform baggage management which will improve both the passenger experience and help to reduce the cost to the airlines.
"To be successful we need to cooperate and collaborate across the industry and challenge ourselves to find new ways of working and sharing data to upgrade the experience for air travelers and to improve operations.”