The challenge was examined from all angles during a session at the WPS in Bahrain.
In 2021, according to SITA data, there were 4.35 bags mishandled per 1,000. This is almost back to 2019 levels despite fewer passengers and represents the reversal of a trend that had baggage mishandling rates dropping. Also relevant is that 2021 had a larger proportion of domestic traffic. Yet a bag is five times more likely to be mishandled for international flights.
Transfer bags are still the main problem although failure to load—meaning a lack of staff—did increase.
Established ideas like radio frequency identification (RFID) do help but have limitations and are anyway lacking in implementation.
It is clear that digitization and technology solutions must be accelerated. End-to-end tracking reduces mishandling at least 20% according to SITA tests, for example. The data exchange this concept implies is straightforward technically, thanks to application programming interfaces, and the data can even be passed to the passenger for real-time updates of their bag’s location.
“Automation is the key,” said Adonis Succar, Business Development Director, MEA, SITA.
Rob Broere, CEO, Travel Must Change pushed for baggage to have 2D barcodes attached during his presentation.
He noted that baggage hasn’t really changed in design or in terms of handling. But though there is a bag tag for a particular journey there is no permanent ID.
A 2D barcode would mean the bag can always be traced back to its owner and has a complete, correct description attached—as opposed to asking a passenger to identify a bag from a chart. A barcode could contain info such as manufacturer, model, size, color, serial number, and dimensions.
Standards would need to be defined and industry partners involved but implementation has a relatively short timeline. Baggage with permanent IDs could be available as early as 2025.
Adonis Succar, Business Development Director, MEA, SITA
Rob Broere, CEO, Travel Must Change