Is there an end in sight for lost airline baggage?

Imagine the scene; you’ve arrived at your holiday or business destination and are waiting patiently at the baggage carousel for the cases to start arriving from the plane, the alarm sounds, the carousel starts to move, and bags start to appear. Half an hour or so later, with almost everyone else having come and gone, there’s just you and a random bag going around and around. It’s not your bag. Fearing the worst, you head to the information or lost baggage desk to be told your luggage is, as yet, nowhere to be found and you have that hideous sinking feeling that you might well be wearing the same pair of socks for the next week or so, unless the bag gets found.

According to some research performed by the SITA (an airline technology company) in 2014, 24.1 million bags were mishandled through the year, that’s just over 7 bags per 1,000 customers. The good news is that this number decreases year on year as the airline industry, airports and technology companies continue to improve their services and equipment. In fact, the 2014 data shows a 61.3% decrease in mishandled baggage compared to 2007.

New Initiatives

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently released their latest initiative to combat the scourge of lost baggage. Known as Resolution 753, the new rules on how ground staff and airlines handle baggage came into effect on June 1st, 2018 and is designed to “further reduce mishandling by implementing cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey” according to the IATA website.

The resolution stipulates that airlines must now track baggage at key points in its journey from the passenger back to the passenger at the destination. The data from these tracking points; at handover at the departure airport, at the point of loading to the aircraft, delivery to the transfer area and the return to the passenger should be collected by the airline and must also be shared with partner airlines where necessary, for example in the case of transfers.

New Challenges

Of course, with any new initiative comes new challenges and hurdles and Resolution 753 is no different. Airlines must now have systems in place to maintain the tracking of baggage as required by the IATA but with stand fees and the increase in costs of operating airlines, such as fuel prices, this has to be done quickly and efficiently and with minimal disruption to the passenger.

Technology is playing a huge part in this process and companies like Lyngsoe Systems, for example, have implemented advanced RFID tracking solutions along the key points in order to help airlines ensure that they are compliant with the IATA resolution 753 rules.

RFID tracking uses scanning equipment which is built into the check points outlined in the resolution and use the RFID signals contained in luggage labels to read and track the movement of individual bags throughout their journey.

Reduced cost

Not only does the resolution aim to reduce costs to airlines for mishandled luggage claims, the use of technology, such as RFID scanning further reduces costs as the technology is built into existing systems and hardware. This also reduces costs associated with staffing and manual tracking of baggage and information. The process is not only less expensive for airlines, it also allows for live data tracking to be produced and shared with airports globally as well as with the industry bodies for reporting purposes.

What about connecting flights?

One of the greatest fears with regards to checked luggage, of course, is connecting flights. This is a particular concern with regards to inter-airline transfers. The new resolution accounts for this, however and states that the luggage should also be tracked during a transfer of custody from one airline to another, and again the automated technology makes this simple and effective.

No more lost luggage?

Well, it remains to be seen. The figures for mishandled baggage drop year on year as technology and processes improve and there is agreement across the sector that the new directive, in the form of Resolution 753, will make a further positive impact on the numbers of passengers whose baggage is not reunited with them when they arrive at their destination airport. It’s unlikely that this will solve the problem altogether but is certainly a step in the right direction.

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