Flight Plan

Technology is changing the way baggage is handled

V Sajeev Kumar | Updated on January 09, 2018

Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President, India & Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Africa – SITA

The SITA Baggage report 2017, says the rate of mishandled bags was 5.73 bags per thousand passengers in 2016, down 12.25 per cent from the previous year and the lowest ever recorded. However, financial costs remain high. The global bill for recovering bags and reuniting with their owners was $2.1 billion in 2016, says the report. IATA members have adopted resolution 753 requiring every piece of checked baggage to be tracked along its journey, by June 2018.

Responding to an email questionnaire, Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President, India & Subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Africa – SITA reveals strategies adopted for baggage management.

How was baggage handled earlier?

Over the past decade the focus for airports and airlines has been on improving the efficiency of baggage handling. As a result, the rate of mishandled bags has dropped by 70 per cent since 2007 due to investment in technologies and process improvements by the world’s airlines and airports.

However, further improvements are needed to manage the continued growth of passengers in the coming years. It is expected that that the industry’s baggage systems will handle more than 4.5 billion bags in 2017 alone. Therefore, a step change in the way the industry manages baggage is needed.

This change is being driven by the introduction of IATA‘s Resolution 753.

There are four mandatory tracking points at which the bag, via its unique 10-digit bag-tag number, must be recorded: at check-in, loading, transfer and at arrival, when the bag is delivered back to the passenger.

Once implemented, this tracking data will provide clear picture of where a bag is in its journey. This also allows airlines to pro-actively intervene to prevent bags from being mishandled.

What kind of logistics goes into this?

Bags go through multiple changes in custody as they are transported to and from the aircraft. They are passed from check-in agents to the airport staff and their handling systems, security screeners, and ground handlers; a variety of partners who prepare flights and transport. Bags are loaded onto the aircraft for departure and then unloaded either for transfer to another flight or to the arrival belt.

This relies not just on co-ordination of stakeholders from ground handlers, airports and airlines but also baggage handling systems and technologies that ensure that each bag is loaded onto the correct flight. If that bag fails to arrive, the passenger’s satisfaction with his flight experience becomes poor. This a key focus for airlines and airports.

What is SITA doing to make this more efficient?

We continue to work with airlines and airports globally to find solutions that will allow to meet the resolution’s requirements.

For example, we recently assisted Istanbul New Airport, which is under construction in Turkey, to make sure they are able to assist their airlines become Resolution 753 compliant from day one.

What are airlines and airports doing about this?

Today the focus for most airlines and airports is in fact on the implementation of IATA’s Resolution 753. They understand the benefits these changes will bring in reducing both the cost and number of mishandled bags. This tracking data not only allows the airlines to track the bags at key steps in the journey but in future could be shared with passengers, providing more clarity and certainty that their bags will arrive at the destination with them.

How do new technologies help? Is it about saving time, or costs too?

New technologies such as Internet of Things, blockchain and artificial intelligence hold tremendous potential to changing the way baggage is handled in future, with significant improvements to the accuracy and speed of baggage management.

Another technology that holds great promise is RFID. By increasing the reading accuracy, it offers unparalleled improvements to track bags throughout their journey, in particular on arrival and transfer. RFID brings new ways to address mishandling during transfer from one flight to another, one of the key areas identified by SITA and IATA where technology could help improve baggage handling rates.

Published on November 14, 2017

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