Airlines Lose Fewer Bags as Technology Tackles Transfer Headache

LONDON (Bloomberg News) —

Airlines cut the rate of mishandled bags in 2012, with transfer flights accounting for less than half of such incidents for the first time in four years as carriers used new technology to speed transit times and cope with delays.

Some 8.83 bags per thousand people were mishandled, down from 8.99 in 2011, even as passenger levels rose, airport IT provider SITA said Tuesday. The number of transfer incidents fell almost nine percent to 12.5 million, or 48 percent of the total.

“The industry has made a concerted effort to improve baggage-handling operations in recent years through significant investment and innovation,” SITA Chief Executive Officer Francesco Violante said in SITA’s ninth annual survey of passenger bags that are delayed, damaged, pilfered, lost or stolen.

The rate of mishandled bags has fallen 53 percent in the past six years, saving the industry $2.1 billion annually, SITA said. Examples of cutting transfer glitches include the prioritization of handling based on real-time needs at Spain’s Iberia, while Helsinki airport introduced a system that aims to deliver 30-minute transfers and triggers special measures to ensure that bags from delayed planes reach connecting flights.

Airlines mishandled a total of 26 million pieces of luggage last year, at a cost of $2.6 billion, SITA said. Delayed bags accounted for almost 83 percent of incidents, while 13 percent were damaged or pilfered and 4.2 percent lost or stolen.

Airport performance, reviewed for the first time this year, was worst in Europe, with 10.6 bags per thousand passengers mishandled at major hubs, compared with 4.17 in North America and just 2.28 in Asia, SITA’s Baggage Report 2013 shows.

The cost of mishandled bags per customer slid to 88 cents, or $1.01 less than in 2007, when the industry’s bill for compensation and rectification was $4.69 billion, SITA said.

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