Baggage scheme stands to benefit travelers and airlines

A small proportion of bags—6.5 bags per 1,000 passengers to be exact—don’t arrive at their destination at same time as their owner

That’s annoying, even if 99.99% of mishandled are bags reunited with the passenger within 24 hours. In total, 23.1 million bags were mishandled in 2015, a record low. But airlines are determined to do even better.

Part of the solution will be recording when a bag changes hands to ensure that the tracking information is shared with the next airport in the journey. This is exactly what Resolution 753 calls for and it has a June 2018 deadline.

“Resolution 753 provides a foundation for the industry to track bags throughout the global network,” says David Hosford, Delta’s Manager of Baggage Performance. “The information provided by 753 is crucial to further reducing mishandlings and improving the customer experience.” 

The sharing component of Resolution 753 is likely to have the biggest impact on the industry, as it improves the information available to each stakeholder in the baggage journey, allowing them to be more efficient in their operations, says Andrew Price, Head of Global Baggage Operations at IATA.

“Initially, we are looking at how we can use standard baggage messages to share the tracking information,” he says. “This includes developing a common industry dictionary for naming locations at the airport.”

Making decisions

To assist airlines, IATA is publishing an implementation guidelines manual, available on the IATA website.

The guidelines were devised and approved by the Baggage Working Group. The biggest challenge it faced was finding a set of tasks for every bag that encompasses the huge variety of airline business processes. One view of tracking is to scan the license plate and record the time and location of that scan. Another view holds that the bag should be scanned and then matched to the journey details so that it is properly validated. The solution to the existing complexity goes a long way toward reducing bag mishandling.

Implementing Resolution 753 will also involve close liaison with airports. Price believes it would be foolish to have every airline at a busy airport, each introducing their own tracking solution, when the places where tracking is being undertaken are often common to all the airlines, such as the reclaim belt or transfer inject.

Rather, Price suggests that “at some airports, the airport operators’ committee should lead a project to install the infrastructure. Most airports have baggage system development plans and the infrastructure should be included in these, so we see no need for a specific charge for implementation.”

Working through these issues will certainly be worthwhile for airlines. Mishandling bags cost the industry $2.3 billion in 2015. In work done to date, IATA figures show reductions in mishandling of 30-35% when an airline is able to track bags from end to end. That will generate huge savings as well as enhance the passenger journey experience.

And having complete visibility of the bag allows greater management of the bag to be put in place. Airlines can use this information to control costs, set investment targets, and support all the normal management activities. If airlines want to give visibility on the bag’s journey to their passengers, as Delta is doing, then they can do this also. Passengers should see a benefit through further reduced mishandling and also through more product offerings from the airlines.

Thierry Michelon, Director of Baggage at Air France, says bag tracking at Paris Charles de Gaulle and other stations is fundamental to the airline’s operations and its customers. “It allows a real time control of a complex baggage process that involves a lot of different actors,” he says. “It also allows us to study optimization of the process. Already, it has helped us to reduce Air France’s number of mishandled bags by 30%.”

Full visibility

Implementing Resolution 753 forms part of the latest industry initiative in this area to be rolled out—End-to-End Baggage Capability (eBC). This aims to establish full visibility for every bag and so make physically losing a bag all but impossible.

There are five components to eBC:

  • Identifying a bag uniquely and permanently.
  • Tracking bags as they change hands.
  • XML messaging to make sharing data easier.
  • Data sharing between partners using common terminology.
  • Process automation to reduce costs and improve service.

Identification, tracking and XML are being prioritized for implementation over the next three years.

“Having common capabilities for baggage defined in the eBC program will consolidate the improvements in baggage performance that have been gained over the last eight years,” says Price. “Airlines that already have some of these capabilities have demonstrated an improved baggage performance and increased customer offerings in the baggage space—like Delta’s tracking or the Alaska Airlines 20-minute bag guarantee—which improve the journey for passengers.

“The five capabilities within eBC form the foundation of a world in which we will make it near impossible to permanently lose a bag,” continues Price. “It is a world where airlines will have full transparency on bags and control of their costs. And that will provide a range of interesting options for airlines and their passengers in the immediate future.”

If any business needs help or advice in preparing for the June 2018 implementation deadline, IATA can be contacted at baggage@iata.org

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