The chaos that travellers have been experiencing at Heathrow Airport's newly-opened Terminal 5 as a result of poor baggage handling could be the tip of the iceberg, with the airline industry now handling about 2,25-billion pieces of checked baggage every year.
There is a huge opportunity for baggage handling at the world's busiest airports to be improved through the use of technology, according to a report from SITA, an IT provider that tracks passenger baggage worldwide for the air transport industry.
Francesco Violante, SITA CEO, introducing the 4th annual SITA Baggage Report, says: “Once again, the past year has seen an increase in the amount of baggage mishandled worldwide. It also brings fresh hope, however, in the shape of new initiatives such as IATA’s Baggage Improvement Programme.
“It is important that we continue to move towards a comprehensive, fully-integrated global baggage management system that can direct, track and trace passenger baggage throughout the entire journey from check-in to final delivery at the destination. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) also has a role to play and could save the industry as much $700 million if it was fully implemented across the industry.”
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director -general and CEO, comments: “We get baggage right 98% of the time. But with a total volume of over 2,2-billion bags in the system, the 2% that is mishandled is a big problem that we need to fix. IATA has developed a toolkit of 40 solutions designed to address the prime causes of baggage mishandling. And, because every airport is different, IATA Baggage Go Teams will visit targeted airports spreading best practice solutions matched to local needs.”
According to this year’s Baggage Report, the air transport industry lost $3,8-billion in 2007 because of growing pressures on baggage management linked to passenger volumes, tight aircraft turnaround times, and heightened security measures.
Figures from WorldTracer, SITA’s fully-automated system for tracing lost and mishandled passenger baggage used by 400 airlines and ground handling companies, show that 42,4-million bags were mishandled or delayed in 2007. The air transport industry handles around 2,25-billion pieces of checked baggage every year.
In 2007, the single largest cause of baggage delay was in transfer baggage mishandling, 49%, but this number has been falling steadily since 2005 when it was at 61%. This was followed by ticketing error/ passenger bag switch/ security/ other, 14%; failure to load, 16%; space-weight restriction, 5%; loading/offloading error, 5%; tagging errors, 3%; and arrival station mishandling, 8%.
SITA facilitates communications between airlines and local baggage handling and reconciliation systems to ensure bags reach their correct destination, and its proprietary BagMessage system delivered 750-million messages between airline Departure Control Systems and automated baggage systems in 2007.