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We'll Keep Your Bags On Track

While the immediate focus is on implementing Resolution 753, the bag tracking data generated and collected under the Resolution will give the air transport industry a rich stream of data.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


Of all the journey’s stages, bag collection is still the Achilles' heel – the one most likely to leave passengers feeling negative about their trip. That is why the ability to track bags has become a critical part of enhancing industry operations and achieving the seamless passenger journey. As air travel grows, there is pressure for the industry to work together to drive down this number. 

International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that the demand for air travel will rise from around 4 billion to a staggering 7.8 billion between now and 2036. In 2018, 4.36 billion travelers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags. Looking at the pace of growth, airports will need to deal with something in the region of over 9 billion in coming years. More bags increase the strain on existing air transport infrastructure and make operations more challenging. 

A race to the Resolution
With the industry clearly needing technology to deliver smart end-to-end bag tracking, the race is now on to achieve it, according to our global report.  

Over the past year, a growing number of airlines introduced baggage tracking at key points in the journey – check-in, loading onto the aircraft, transfers and arrival – in response to IATA’s Resolution 753 that bags should be tracked from start to finish. Today, airlines are communicating more about missing baggage information via mobile devices. In the context of the IATA Resolution 753, 68% of airlines plan to implement real-time bag tracking information for passengers by 2021. It has is also observed that 60% of airlines plan to implement information services via mobile apps to passengers for missing baggage and baggage location status updates. Real-time bag tracking information via mobile apps is on the self-service investment agenda for a majority of airlines over the next three years where they plan to offer bag location status updates and missing bag communications to passengers.

This investment in tracking is already having a positive impact. Our analysis of baggage records reveals that where bags are tracking at check-in and loading onto the aircraft, the rate of improvement ranged between 38% and 66%, depending on the level of tracking introduced. Total mishandled bags each year have plummeted 47% from 46.9 million in 2007 to 24.8 million in 2018. As a result, the annual bill footed by the industry has shrunk 43% to US$2.4 billion, ($4.22 billion in 2007). 

Passengers are welcoming technology to ease and expedite their journey through the airport. Eight out of ten passengers check in their luggage and waiting at the baggage carousel is a stressful point in the passenger’s journey. Passengers are today more keen to receive real-time baggage collection notifications on their mobile devices. It is also observed that the satisfaction level is higher amongst the passengers receiving mobile notifications than those relying on airport screens or public announcements. 

But community collaboration is critical
Delayed bags accounted for over three quarters of all mishandled bags in 2018. Tackling potential operational disruptions is a major technology focus for airlines. Predictive analytics capabilities, which will help them identify and address disruptions before they occur is the second main use case for artificial intelligence implementation.

Various luggage and communications specialists have been working on consumer-facing tracking services, including tracking beacons, smart tags and smart bag concepts. But few of these innovations can send data to the airline and even those developed in partnership with an individual airline still lack the ability to share data with other airlines involved in the passenger’s, and the bag’s, journey. While airlines bear the ultimate responsibility for delivering the correct bag to the correct passenger, the airports and ground handlers they work with also need to have the appropriate IT systems and infrastructures in place to support compliance.

The scanning and subsequently documented receipt of arriving baggage will help airports drive down the cost of making baggage reports and running lost bag procedures. Successful technology transformation of baggage management demands community-wide collaboration to positively impact the passenger experience. We all need to find new ways of working and sharing data to upgrade the experience for air travelers and to improve operations. Baggage tracking is one of the most pressing challenges faced by air transport community. We need to enable air transport community to scale up tracking capabilities without needing massive capital investment from the community.

The march of smart tech
Looking ahead, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is looming on the horizon. RFID will help air transport community move to a per bag plan for successful delivery. IATA has committed to developing a standard for using RFID tagging this year to help increase the accuracy of baggage handling and ease processes as passenger numbers continue to grow. Though roll out is likely to be slow, as new technologies will need to be deployed worldwide, the end result will make it easier for baggage to be tracked and allow passengers to get updates on their bags via an app.

While the immediate focus is on implementing Resolution 753, the bag tracking data generated and collected under the Resolution will give the air transport industry a rich stream of data. This data can be enhanced with AI tools to create even greater efficiencies in baggage operations and, ultimately, to improve the seamless passenger journey. AI promises to make mishandled bags an increasingly rare event for passengers globally.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Peter Drummond

The author is Portfolio Director Baggage, SITA

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