Aviation sector improves baggage handling performance despite passenger surge

The rate of lost airline passenger baggage fell last year despite rising passenger levels.

The number of bags mishandled by the industry reduced from 7.6 to 6.9 per 1,000 passengers in 2023, according to industry IT provider Sita.

The performance came in the face of passenger numbers rising above pre-pandemic 2019 levels for the first time in five years, growing to 5.2 billion.

A 63% drop in the mishandling rate from 2007 to 2023 occured as passenger traffic rose by 111%.

Europe experienced the biggest long-term drop globally in the baggage mishandling rate from 16.6 per 1,000 passengers in 2007 to 10.6 last year.

But the industry still faces challenges, particularly managing surges in baggage volumes, Sita warned. 

Pushing ahead with the industry’s digitalisation agenda is vital, argues the survey, focusing on AI for data analysis and computer vision tech in automated baggage handling.

That push must include full automation, good communication, and full visibility of each bag’s journey. 

Sita research reveals passenger anxiety about delays and cancellations (32% in 2023). 

It shows that two-thirds of airlines now offer unassisted bag drop and 85% of airports offer self-service bag drop. 

This reflects industry demand for self-service tech for better passenger flows. 

At the same time, passengers want to use their mobile phones as they travel, including at bag collection, with 32% relying on information sent straight to their mobile. 

Better communication and visibility for passengers will encourage more use of digital self-service and give passengers control over their journey, the Sita study found.

Sita chief executive David Lavorel said: “The improved mishandled baggage rate in 2023 is great news for passengers and for aviation.

“It’s especially impressive as global passenger traffic grew strongly in 2023 and is set to double by 2040. 

“We clearly see that baggage automation is the way forward, with more collaboration, more communication with passengers, and investments in new technologies such as AI and computer vision to make the journey smoother. 

“Technologies like these are essential because they help us gather, integrate, and share data effectively. This means we can uncover important insights that make decision-making easier and more automated.”

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