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SITA report sees technology improving bag handling numbers
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SITA report sees technology improving bag handling numbers

Airlines continue to improve their handling of checked bags, getting more bags to the right destination on time even as the number of airline passengers grows each year.

That was the key finding in SITA’s 2019 Baggage IT Insights report, released April 24. More bags are being checked in, but mishandled rates are remaining stable, showing the impact of improved bag-tracking throughout the passenger journey.

In 2018, 4.36 billion passengers flew—6.6% more than in 2017—but the number of mishandled bags rose by just 2.2% to 5.69 per 1,000 passengers. Of the 4.3 billion checked bags, only 24.8 million were reported as mishandled.

Historically, it could have been argued that while passenger numbers were going up, the number of checked bags had gone down, making the mishandled bag figures look good. However, over the last several years, airlines—particularly LCCs—have done an about-face on their baggage policies.

LCCs previously used checked-bag fees as a tool to persuade price-sensitive passengers to travel with hand-luggage only, cutting turnaround complexity and bag-handling costs. Now, that trend seems to be shifting. LCCs are increasingly encouraging passengers to check in bags to combat turnaround delays caused by passengers battling to squeeze their hand luggage into more densely packed cabins.

This strategy shift seems to show in the SITA numbers, which saw checked-bag rates increase for the first time in years, to 1.21 bags per passenger. The trend is clear. In 2015, the figure was 1.22 checked bags per passenger, dropping to 1.15 in 2016 and falling still further to 1.08 in 2017, before the sudden 2018 uptick to 1.21.

“The average number of bags checked in by passengers was reducing over the last few years, but it increased in 2018,” SITA senior manager-market insight Christelle Laverriere told ATW. “This certainly correlates to constraints on the number of bags in the cabin and also the pricing strategies that some airlines have put in place.”

While the number of checked bags is growing, the type of mishandling remained largely unchanged. Delayed bags made up 77% of the 2018 total, followed by damaged or pilfered bags (18%) and lost or stolen bags (5%).

“The reasons for these delayed bags haven’t changed very much,” SITA baggage portfolio director Peter Drummond told ATW. “Transfer mishandling is the primary cause of mishandled bags. There are no real surprises there, given that it’s complicated getting bags off one aircraft and onto another. That’s never going to go away entirely”…

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