SITA’s Intelligent Tracking: A Baggage Management Revolution paper, published today, notes that more than 4.5 billion bags are handled by industry baggage systems each year but airlines and airports will have to cope with twice that number with passenger numbers set to double over the next 20 years.
This will be a tough ask of the industry, despite the huge inmprovement in its baggage handling performance over the last decade.
Indeed, improvements to technology and processes have halved the industry's annual mishandling cost over the past decade from $4.22bn to $2.1 billion.
However, every mishandled bag is one too many and the industry continues to seek ways to reduce the number further.
Ilya Gutlin, president of SITA Air Travel Solutions, says: “We at SITA believe that harnessing data and AI in a meaningful way will revolutionise how we manage the air transport industry in the next decade.
"SITA has a unique role to play in realising the potential of data and baggage management is one area that will benefit.
"It is an area we are strongly focused on, collaborating across the industry to innovate.”
The industry’s immediate focus is on implementing the International Air Transport Association’s Resolution 753.
The resolution requires member airlines keep track of each bag and share that tracking information with all involved in delivering those bags back to passengers at their destination.
While the resolution will deliver accurate data on the journey undertaken by each and every bag, the industry is already looking beyond the resolution to develop an even more accurate model for baggage operations.
Gutlin notes: “The bag tracking data that will be generated and collected under Resolution 753 will provide the air transport industry with a rich stream of data.
"This can be enhanced with AI tools to create greater efficiencies in baggage operations and, ultimately, to improve our experience as passengers.”
According to SITA, from an operations point of view, AI will allow airports and airlines to learn what baggage routes cause the most stress on their systems and what factors are most likely to cause them.
These systems could also generate insight into the patterns of baggage movements that would enable airlines to deliver bags more effectively.
Using AI, it says, intelligent machines will enable baggage to be autonomously managed from the moment a passenger checks in their bag to when it arrives at the destination – all without human intervention.
For example, in this vision of the future, autonomous loaders could be used to transport bags between the terminal and aircraft.
Baggage data will also allow airlines and airports to provide passengers more relevant information on their baggage as it makes its journey from departure to destination.
Already important progress in harnessing the power of AI has been made and the air transport community is learning from the experiences of the supply chain industry which is leading the way in implementing AI-led business models.
Gutlin predictas: “The digital transformation around baggage is already happening and our new paper discusses how harnessing AI will revolutionise our industry in the next decade.
"It will take time, but AI will unleash the potential to make baggage operations more service orientated.
"This means baggage delivery becomes more secure and enables airports and airlines to deliver tailored baggage services to their passengers.”