Finding a solution to lost luggage

Lost luggage continues to be a challenge for airline industry, with almost 25 million bags mishandled in 2018.

Waiting at the baggage carousel remains a stressful part of any flight as passengers hope that their bag is not one of the 25 million or so lost or mishandled every year.

Based on the fact that airlines worldwide carried an estimated 4.3 billion bags last year, the chances of disruption are actually reasonably low — at 5.69 bags per thousand passengers.

Increased tracking of bags at key points in the airport journey — such as check-in, loading onto the aircraft and at onward connections — mean the scale of the problem has halved over the past decade. Even so, mishandled bags still cost airlines US$2.4 billion in compensation in 2018 and there are signs that the rate of improvement has plateaued recently.

Baggage tracking

Aviation technology company SITA said mistakes made during the transfer of baggage from one aircraft to another, or between airlines, accounted for 46% of all mishandled bags last year.

It urged airlines to consider the increased adoption of baggage tracking across all journey stages in order to drive greater efficiencies. Where this takes place at check-in and loading onto the aircraft, the rate of improvement ranged between 38% and 66%.

Tracking data will also enable airlines to provide more detailed information to passengers on the whereabouts of their baggage at each step in the journey.

Radio frequency chips

Some carriers have gone as far as inserting radio frequency chips into luggage tags so that it is possible to monitor baggage in real-time across the journey.

Results from Delta Airlines show that items tagged in this way were tracked at a 99.9% success rate, ensuring proper routing and loading for the 180 million bags it handles every year.

Baggage updates are then sent to the mobile phones of customers so that they have peace of mind before they reach the airport carousel.