Better Baggage Tracking Systems Yield Positive Results, SITA Reports

by | Jun 26, 2019 | Airlines, News

SITA’s 2019 Baggage IT Insights report shows that airline industry initiatives to improve baggage tracking have yielded positive results, thanks to the combination of initiatives to comply with IATA’s baggage tracking Resolution 753 and adoption of new technologies including RFID tags and scanners.

“We analysed about 10 million bag records in BagJourney, and used machine learning techniques to validate the results. This revealed that bag tracking implementation at loading is helping airlines to improve their baggage mishandling rate by at least 38%—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%,” said Peter Drummond, Portfolio Director, Baggage at SITA.

While airlines handled more passenger bags in 2018 (4.27 billion) and had to deal with weather disruptions and other service interruptions, the overall baggage mishandling rate was only 5.69 bags per thousand passengers.

In the U.S., the baggage mishandling rate was only 2.85 bags per thousand. John Heimlich, Vice President & Chief Economist, Airlines for America said, “A nationwide Customs outage, winter storms, September floods and hurricanes were some of the operating impediments faced by carriers this year. That carriers kept the rate below 3.0 is a testament to the human capital and technology they’ve deployed in an ongoing effort to improve baggage-handling.”

SITA’s baggage report also reflects a positive trend over time, with the total number of mishandled bags in 2018 (24.8 million) 47% lower than the number of bags mishandled in 2007 (46.9), despite a 76% rise in passenger numbers during that period. Still, the current rate of mishandled bags cost the industry $2.4 billion last year.

The majority (77%) of baggage mishandling incidents are delays, with only 5% of the 24.8 million mishandled bags being lost or stolen and only 18% damaged or pilfered.

There are still challenges ahead for the industry, specifically in reducing the number of mishandled bags at transfer, which accounted for 46% of delayed bags in 2018.

RFID Boosts Performance

Using RFID bag tags to comply with IATA Resolution 753 on baggage tracking is a cost-effective and reliable solution which allows airlines and airports to register baggage movement even in cases where the bar code baggage ID is damaged or difficult for scanners to read.

IATA has tabled a proposal for its Annual General Meeting in June to adopt RFID tags as an industry standard and is actively liaising with airports to promote adoption of RFID readers in their baggage handling systems.

“Airports seem to be ready to implement RFID for baggage tracking, which will provide a rich data set for operational analysis and planning,” says Andrew Price, Head of Global Baggage Operations at IATA.

Currently, 28% of airports have implemented RFID in their baggage management systems and 20% have plans to do so by 2022. Another 52% are working on the business case to adopt the technology.

One factor that might help motivate more airports to adopt RFID is that Airports Council International (ACI) has made baggage tracking part of its ACRIS KPIs (Key performance indicators). Airports acknowledge that, as passenger numbers continue to rise, more accurate and reliable baggage tracking systems are needed.

“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 Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World. “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.”

Asia’s Airlines and Airports Outperform Peers

Asia has led the way on adoption of advanced baggage tracking. Hong Kong Airport, for example, adopted RFID baggage tag tracking systems back in 2004 and reached 100% RFID baggage tracking in 2009.

A collaboration between airlines and airports in this region, prioritising baggage tracking, has put Asia at the top of the class in baggage handling performance with only 1.77 bags mishandled per thousand passengers.

“Increasing adoption of enhanced technologies in baggage handling systems will continue to drive operational efficiencies,” said Beatrice Lim, Director — Industry & Regulatory Affairs, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. “The region’s airlines work closely with airports and other stakeholders to harness cost-effective technological solutions to deliver a seamless passenger travel experience.”  

abu Dhabi Airports

Abu Dhabi International Airport has seen performance improve with advanced baggage tracking systems. Given the airport’s role as a global connection hub, it was critical for Abu Dhabi to establish a reliable system for baggage tracking that could also ensure reliable transfe

Abu Dhabi International Airport handled 16.8 million bags in 2018, with 48% of them going through the baggage transfer system.

“In 2018, we installed automated tag readers (ATRs) across the arrival belts in Terminals 1 and 3 and provided a platform for all airlines to comply with IATA Resolution 753 for automated arrival baggage scanning and tracking. We also introduced handheld scanners to scan and tract terminating out of gauge (OOG) bags and provided ground handlers with barcodes to track and reconcile arrival OOG bags in SITA Bag Manager,” said Mohamed Nasser Al Otaiba, General Manager of Operations, Abu Dhabi International Airport. “The BHS (Baggage Handling Systems) for Terminal 3 and Transfers were modified so that bags are auto sorted to destination-planned carrousels, which has enhanced efficiency, baggage connectivity time and, ultimately passenger satisfaction.”

The airport has set a target for baggage delivery satisfaction of 4.32 out of 5.0, based on ACI best practice measures. 

Passengers Make Their Technology Preferences Known

SITA’s Baggage IT Insights report also reveals passenger preferences for baggage check and tracking. Eight out of ten passengers check in their luggage when flying, and most travel with one bag.

Mobile notifications offering baggage information can make passengers happier with their journey. The 26% of passengers who received real-time notifications on baggage collection to their mobile device last year, expressed 8.6% higher satisfaction than those who relied on screen displays at the airport or public audio announcements for this information.

Passengers also expressed a desire to get baggage tracking information on their mobile device, with 64% saying that they would definitely use this feature if it were available.