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A heavy case for tracking

Posted 23 September 2019 · Add Comment

Analysis shows that tracking and technology are key to improved baggage delivery figures and greater customer satisfaction. Jill Stockbridge finds out more.

In April, air transport IT specialist, SITA, released its 2019 baggage IT insights.
The study revealed that the previously record drops in baggage mishandling globally have continued to plateau, staying steady at around 5.7 bags per thousand passengers over the past three years.
However, the report also showed that airlines and airports implementing tracking at check-in and loading on to the aircraft, were recording rates of improvement of up to 66%.
Over the past year, an increasing number of airlines and airports have started to introduce tracking at key points in the journey to improve baggage management and further reduce the chances of mishandling. SITA’s research provides the first glimpse of the success of this tracking.
Peter Drummond, director of baggage at SITA, said: “We analysed about 10 million bag records. This revealed that bag-tracking implementation at loading is helping airlines to improve their rate by at least 38% – if they already had good processes in place. If they had not previously undertaken any tracking, their bag mishandling rate reduced by up to 66%.
“Eight out of 10 passengers check in luggage. In 2018, 4.36 billion travellers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags. More bags make things more challenging. Everyone across the industry needs to look beyond the process and technology improvements made in the past decade and adopt the latest technology, such as tracking, to make the next big cut in the rate of mishandled bags,” he added.
The wider application of tracking systems at various points in the baggage journey follows the implementation of International Air Transport Association (IATA) Resolution 753, which requires all bags to be tracked from start to finish. The resolution is intended to encourage airlines to reduce mishandling by implementing cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey. The resolution became effective in June 2018, with 90% of airlines expected to have implemented it by the end of 2019.
According to Resolution 753, airlines must track baggage at four key points in the baggage journey: check-in, loading on to the aircraft, transfers and arrival.
IATA recognises that, although the resolution itself could seem simple, implementing baggage-tracking can be complex and may require changes in processes and/or infrastructure. This is why it feels it is important for airlines and key stakeholders to understand the Resolution 753 requirements, assess their current situation, identify gaps and define the best strategy to maximise the benefits it could bring.
Drummond said: “Loading is one of the easiest journey stages for an airline to implement tracking and is key to delivering the benefits of Resolution 753. Many airports provide common-use baggage reconciliation systems (BRS) and, where these are available, we would encourage airlines to use them. These baggage systems will strengthen airlines’ processes and improve their ability to keep track of each item of luggage.”
The SITA data analysis shows that, as well as plateauing in figures, the reasons for the mishandling remain largely unchanged from 2017. Delayed bags accounted for more than three-quarters of all mishandled bags in 2018.
The breakdown showed 77% of mishandled bags due to delay, 18% damaged or pilfered, with 5% lost or stolen.
The leading cause of delay in bags is transferring luggage from one aircraft to another or one airline to another.
Drummond said: “The main culprit is transfer mishandling, which is where 46% of the problems lie. This is an area that airports and airlines can address with tracking. However, with transfers it is never possible to have zero – as it is a decision made with each flight.”
Mohammed Nasser Al Otaiba, general manager of operations, Abu Dhabi Airports, added: “Abu Dhabi Airport handles more transfer passenger than local passengers. Transfer times must be respected so everyone can do their jobs properly.”
In the remaining 54% of delayed bags, minor improvements were noted in loading/offloading errors and mishandling due to airport, customs, and weather and/or space-weight restrictions. However, there was a slight rise in mishandling as a result of ticketing errors, bag switches, security and other miscellaneous factors.
Drummond believes that tracking will enable improvements in other areas, such as pilfering. He said: “The tracking points in the journey allow you to see where the bag may be being pilfered. It can pin it down to a certain point, where the bag took longer to travel than it should have done. The teams can then ask why it stopped, what was happening to it, and then can check the CC TV.”
The report was launched at Abu Dhabi International Airport, the first time SITA has held the event at an airport, in recognition of its proactive role in implementing baggage-tracking, which has led to a 33% reduction in mishandled bags for Etihad.
Drummond said: “Abu Dhabi Airport invested heavily in baggage delivery in 2018. It provided a platform for all airlines to comply with resolution 753.”
Al Otaiba added: “The vision of the company is to be the leading airport group worldwide. We have grown since 2017/2018 and we have now a 95% delivery of bags. The future is coming with SITA, we are working with them to ensure we provide a seamless travel experience for customers.”
And customers are feeling the benefits, with those who received regular updates through improved technology reportedly more satisfied. Drummond explained: “When data is shared with passengers, the satisfaction levels are higher. The single greatest satisfaction improvement is in baggage collection, and that is only possible because of this technology. The top three demands for technology are all about baggage.”
One of the most stressful points in the passenger journey, especially those on transfer flights, is waiting at the baggage carousel. This has traditionally been rated as one of the lowest areas of satisfaction for travellers. However, those receiving real-time mobile updates on the position of their baggage were highly satisfied, with satisfaction levels second only to the check-in experience.
Around 26% of travellers received baggage collection notifications via their mobile devices in 2018. Their satisfaction level was 8.6% higher than those relying on screen or public announcements.
Drummond concluded: “Passengers want to know where their bag is at every step of the way and are reassured by the information.”
Al Otaiba added: “Abu Dhabi International Airport has been the best in the region for two years running. The rate of mishandled bags in the airport was down to two per 1,000 passengers in first quarter of 2019. In 2018, it was 5.3 bags per 1,000 passengers. Both Abu Dhabi Airports and the Government of Abu Dhabi are very serious about this.”

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