What is baggage mishandling? How has the pandemic changed it? SITA’s 2021 Baggage IT Insights report shares key insights

At most airports, delayed bags are the main reason for mishandled bags.

Baggage mishandling plunges to 81 per cent due to the pandemic, SITA’s 2021 Baggage IT Insights report indicates. So, how safe is your baggage when you travel on a flight? A key concern of air travellers pertains to the safety of their baggage whenever they travel. While the year 2020 turned out to be a nightmare for all travel-loving enthusiasts, it also meant reduced workforces at all airports and airlines across the world. SITA’s 2021 Baggage IT Insights report delves into the challenges and innovative ways through which airlines and airports have been addressing them.

Reason for mishandled bags

At most airports, delayed bags are the main reason for mishandled bags. These accounted for about 69% of all mishandled bags in the year 2020 – a 6% reduction from 2019. At the same time, the number of stolen and lost bags reduced to 4%, and those that were pilfered and damaged increased to 27%.

We all know how badly the COVID-19 pandemic hit the travel industry worldwide in 2020, causing the passenger numbers for air travel to plunge to 1.8 billion, the lowest since SITA began sharing insights related to passenger trends way back in 2007.

Notably, the report cites that about 66% of airlines are rolling out plans to implement contactless ways for passengers to report their delayed baggage using their mobile device, thereby avoiding long queues at various baggage counters.

What is a mishandled bag?

To start with, what exactly is a mishandled bag?

According to SITA’s 2021 Baggage IT Insights Report, the term refers to reporting a delayed/pilfered/damaged bag which is recorded by an airline or its handling company on the passenger’s behalf; it is then treated as a claim.

Fewer transfer bags due to the pandemic

The report cites that reduction in long-haul flights had a positive outcome. Simply put, there were fewer transfer bags. Remember, these historically account for most mishandled bags during travel and more so, during transits. Given that there were fewer passengers and flights, getting bags to the plane became an easier task.

Baggage mishandling rate plunges to 81 per cent

In 2020, the baggage mishandling rate per thousand passengers has witnessed a clear decreasing trend – which is good news for passengers.

Take a look at the data between 2007 and 2020. It is clear that the mishandling rate plunged by 81%, from a whopping 18.88 bags to a mere 3.5 bags.

It is also pertinent to note that the air transport sector’s annual bill pertaining to mishandled bags was a whopping $600 million but in the year 2020, it witnessed an 85% decrease from $4.2 billion in 2007.

However, the report raises a concern that the time that is now taken to resolve mishandled bag files has increased and requires careful monitoring as passenger volumes recover.

Lufthansa Group launches contactless service for passengers

A silver lining is that the Lufthansa Group has launched a thoroughly contactless way for passengers to report delayed baggage from their mobile device, avoiding long queues at busy baggage service counters or offices. These initial trials by SITA’sWorldTracer® Self Service indicate that this has become popular with travelers, with around two-thirds using the service instead of going to a baggage counter.

Notably, SITA’s 2021 Baggage IT Insights report states that IATA predicts that air travel will not revert to its pre-crisis levels until 2023. Still, there is a ray of optimism as airports and airlines are speeding up with contactless initiatives to make airport procedures and services more efficient for passengers and staff.

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