Airports keep luggage ‘grounded’

Each time a piece of luggage is mishandled or lost, it is estimated an airline forgoes $140 in recovery, administrative and insurance costs.

Understandably, losing luggage is just as irritating for the airline concerned as it is for the owner, when you consider the statistics.

In 2017, almost 23 million pieces of luggage were reported missing by the global airline industry, which calculated the consequent cost at $3.2 billion.

Air travel information and communication technology specialist Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) says that in fewer than 20 years, the number of international airline travellers will almost double to eight billion a year from today’s figures, creating a potential nightmare for handlers.

To help the industry contain costs, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is now requiring all members to sign onto a high-tech luggage tracking system that is hoped will one day see the problem of lost baggage close to eliminated.

The system literally keeps track of luggage every step of the way from when it is checked in, all the way through to when it is collected by the passenger.

Known as IATA Resolution 753, the initiative will cover 83 per cent of global air traffic.

But it is only one of a few solutions being touted to eradicate the inconvenience and cost of mishandled baggage.

“Many industry sectors, including air transport, are in the early, experimental stages of deploying artificial intelligence (AI) tools,” a report by SITA said.

“The bag-tracking data that will be generated and collected under Resolution 753 will provide the air transport community with a rich stream of data. This can be combined with AI tools such as machine learning, robotics and predictive analytics, to create greater efficiencies in baggage operations and, ultimately, to improve our experience as passengers.

While some airlines are reporting difficulties working with certain ‘partners’ who fail to understand the “potential investment/ongoing costs required” of the initiative, other organisations appear to be making good headway, SITA said.

In January, Aeroflot became the first Russian airline to provide real-time location for all the baggage handled in the nation’s airports, using SITA’s BagJourney system for end-to-end tracking.

By the time Istanbul’s new airport – currently named Istanbul New Airport – is finished this year, it expects to handle 28,800 bags an hour. The airport authority is embedding SITA tracking technology in the build and will require all airlines to use it when construction is complete.

Hong Kong International Airport was the first international airport to adopt the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for baggage handling in 2008. It was also the first to have RFID readers built into each [email protected] – the robotic handling aids that help workers to load bags into Unit Load Devices – to automate the departure baggage reconciliation process.

Have you ever lost your luggage while travelling? If it was recovered, how long did it take? In your experience, where are you most at risk of having baggage mishandled?

Written by Olga Galacho

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