Bag tracking reduces luggage mishandling by at least 38%

The rate of mishandled bags remains steady despite a steep increase in total passenger number, a new analysis suggests

Losing luggage while travelling is a misfortune every wanderer seeks to avoid. Luckily, technology can help us reduce it on a large scale.

A new analysis conducted by an aviation technology company SITA has revealed a positive trend. While the number of people travelling by plane is growing exponentially, the count for mishandled luggage is dropping.

“We analysed about 10 million bag records and used a machine learning techniques to validate the results,” said SITA’s portfolio director for baggage Peter Drummond.

“This revealed that bag tracking implementation at loading is helping airlines to improve their baggage mishandling rate by at least 38 per cent if they already had good processes in place. If they had not previously undertaken any tracking, their bag mishandling rate reduced by up to 66 per cent.”

Since 2007, passenger numbers rose by 76 per cent to reach 4.36 billion in 2018. Despite such a growth the total of mishandled bags each year has plummeted 47 per cent from 46.9 million in 2007 to 24.8 million in 2018. Overall, baggage mishandling rate dropped to 5.69 per thousand passengers. The rate remains steady for the third year.

The significant improvement in luggage handling comes hand in hand with a recent global regulation. Since 1 July 2018, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has made bag tracking mandatory for all airlines.

The IATA’s Resolution 753 requires carriers to track baggage at four key points in the baggage journey. It applies at passenger handover to the airline, loading to the aircraft, delivery to the transfer area, and return to the passenger.

Delays remain the main cause of mishandling luggage

The term mishandled baggage stands for a report of a delayed, damaged or pilfered bag.

“Transferring luggage from one aircraft to another, or from one airline to another is a potential bottleneck in the bag’s journey" — Shutterstock Bag tracking reduces luggage mishandling by at least 38%
“Transferring luggage from one aircraft to another, or from one airline to another is a potential bottleneck in the bag’s journey” — Shutterstock

SITA’s analysis suggests that delayed bags accounted for over three-quarters of all mishandled bags in 2018. Eighteen per cent suffered damage, while five per cent were lost or stolen.

“Transferring luggage from one aircraft to another, or from one airline to another is a potential bottleneck in the bag’s journey. In 2018, these transfer bags accounted for 46 per cent of all delayed bags,” SITA said.  

Baggage tracking identified as an enabler for sustainable aviation growth

According to the Airports Council International (ACI), the number of passengers will most likely rise to even more challenging figures.

"By treating baggage as an integrated process, baggage tracking has the potential to make bottlenecks more visible and therefore avoidable" — Shutterstock Bag tracking reduces luggage mishandling by at least 38%
“By treating baggage as an integrated process, baggage tracking has the potential to make bottlenecks more visible and therefore avoidable” — Shutterstock

“We forecast that passenger numbers will reach 20.9 billion by 2040 and investment in baggage and enhanced collaboration between airports and stakeholders will be vital to accommodate such growth,” said ACI World’s director General, Angela Gittens.

“Baggage tracking has been identified as an enabler for sustainable aviation growth. By treating baggage as an integrated process, baggage tracking has the potential to make bottlenecks more visible and therefore avoidable,” she added.