It is time to rebuild passenger confidence in checked baggage

It is time to rebuild passenger confidence in checked baggage

(Posted 19th July 2023)

By Nicole Hogg Director of Baggage, SITA

Recently, I was on a flight that was severely delayed with most passengers trying to bringtheir luggage into the cabin. There was simply no space on board. The flight ended upleaving more than an hour late.No doubt fears of their bags being misplaced or long delays waiting at the baggage carouselwere weighing heavily on most passengers’ minds. They no longer felt confident checkingtheir baggage.

What are the numbers telling us?

Data from the latest SITA Baggage IT Insights report confirms a spike in baggagemishandling emerging from the pandemic. Over the past year, we’ve seen a swifter-than-expected recovery of passenger demand, particularly for international travel. The latest datafrom IATA shows global traffic for April 2023 to have reached 90.5% of April 2019 levels, withtraffic surges at holiday periods matching and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.This has coincided with airlines, airports, and ground handlers still suffering staff andresource shortages, along with a lack of baggage experience and expertise in new staff. The2023 Baggage IT Insights report shows the global rate of mishandled bags per thousandpassengers jumped 74.7% from 2021 to 2022, reaching 7.6.

One of the biggest pain points contributing to this is transfers, where bags are connectedfrom one flight to another. The proportion of mishandled bags delayed at transfer increasedto 42%, owing to the resurgence of international and long-haul travel. The likelihood ofmishandling a bag on international routes is about eight times higher compared to domesticroutes due to the challenges at transfer.

Rebuilding passenger confidence: digitalisation is the key

The industry recognizes that restoring passengers’ confidence to check their baggage is atop priority. Digitalisation has proven a tried-and-true lever to achieve this while boostingoperational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Wide implementation of technologies forthe automated tracking and repatriation of baggage contributed to a 70% drop in themishandling rate from 2007 to 2019.

Airlines and airports have already been investing in IT solutions that deliver greaterautomation and self-service to tackle the current challenges. According to SITA’s 2022 AirTransport IT Insights, by 2025, 84% of airlines plan to provide real-time baggage statusinformation to their staff and 67% plan to offer this to passengers. In addition, touchless bagtagging options that rely on kiosks and passengers’ mobile devices are a priority for 98% ofairlines and 95% of airports.

We know that passengers embrace this too: SITA’s 2022 Passenger IT Insights report foundthat greater technology adoption giving passengers more autonomy and control in baggageprocesses correlates with more positive emotions from passengers. From 2016 to 2022,technology adoption at the bag collection stage rose from zero to 29% of passengersreceiving mobile notifications for bag collection. In the same period, passengers reported a9% increase in positive emotions at bag collection.

Identifying and addressing key pain points in the baggage journey

The post-pandemic recovery has thrown into stark relief the key challenges airports arefacing along the baggage journey, and the major advantages of having greater visibility anddigitalization across the whole value chain. At SITA, we continue to work directly withairlines and airports to help resolve key pain points in the journey through smart automation,tracking, and digital platforms, with the aim of restoring passengers’ confidence to check intheir bags.

For example, in partnership with Lufthansa, we have developed the WorldTracer AutoReflight system in direct response to the high mishandling rates observed at transfer. Thiscollaborative innovation uses digital automation to suggest suitable routing for rush bags andinforms the baggage system of new bag routing using the original bag tag. It proactivelyinforms the passenger upon arrival of any delay, allowing them to save time by bypassingbaggage collection and tracking their bag’s new journey and delivery via mobile.

The results of the recent Proof of Concept suggest that we can automatically reflight asmuch as 70% of Lufthansa’s mishandled bags at Munich Airport. With repatriation ofmishandled bags costing an estimated $150 per bag, we estimate that automation of reflightoperations could save the industry up to $30 million per year.

Elsewhere we’re working to provide end-to-end visibility of the whole baggage journey,eventually ensuring passengers can track their bags in the same way they would track thedelivery of a parcel. We have worked closely with our industry partners to develop solutionslike SITA Bag Manager, which scans and evaluates every bag that is loaded onto a plane, aULD, or a cart, and SITA Bag Journey, which transforms baggage processing informationfrom each step of the journey into a chronological, user-friendly view of what has happenedto the bag.

With smart technology like this on their side, airlines and airports are equipped to provideboth staff and passengers a precise, real-time view of where bags are at each step of thejourney, via mobile for maximum convenience, allowing them to breathe easy with their bagschecked.

SITA - Nicole Hogg Director of Baggage