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We gained a first look at the 2016 SITA Baggage Report yesterday revealing that mishandled baggage is down 5% on 2014 to an all-time low of 6.53 bags lost per 1000 passengers.

SITA manages 90% of all airline intercommunication systems in over 200 countries and operates the baggage tracking systems for most of the world's airlines.

The annual baggage report shines a light on baggage handling statistics, practices, technology trends, laws, and costs to industry. Drawing data from airlines, airports, ground services and governments.

Causes Of Lost Baggage 2016
Image Courtesy of SITA

The full report is pretty heavy going, so we've summarized the best parts below.

2015 saw total airline passengers rise 7% from 3.3 to 3.5 billion and mishandled bags drop from 24.1 to 23.1 million, a 10% improvement with the extra passengers taken into account, costing airlines a total of US$2.3 billion.

Numbers for the last decade show a steady downward trend in mishandled bags after lost bags peaked in 2007 at 46.9 million, dropping by 50% over the last nine years and saving the airline industry close to $23 billion in the process.

Innovation Driving Improvements

From the consumer side, the biggest shift is the move to self bag-drop stations and self bag-tagging from kiosks. When combined with mobile check-in, self-service check-in counters account for the largest transformation in traveler behavior last year with almost 20% of passengers worldwide using a staffed or self-service bag-drop counter on their last flight.

This number will increase steadily over the next three years as over three-quarters of the world's airlines, and almost 90% of airports, aim to have self bag-tagging and self bag-drop facilities operating by 2018.

SITA Baggage Report 2016 Stats
Image Courtesy of SITA

The report digs into some of the most advanced self bag-drop systems already in use.

Air New Zealand has installed five new self-tag kiosks at Auckland International Airport, using biometric technology similar to the SmartGate found in NZ and Australian Immigration. Kiosks scan a passenger's passport and boarding pass before using a biometric scan to verify their identity and passengers then place their luggage on the scale to be weighed and sent to the airline baggage handling area.

On the larger scale, Londons Gatwick Airport is on track to open the world's largest self-service bag-drop this month, finishing the second stage of its £36 million redesign to have 48 self-service kiosks operational.

Another interesting trend is an increase in the use of home-printed tags. Mostly gaining momentum in Europe and Asia, the service allows passengers to print a bag tag at home, insert it into a clear plastic pouch attached to their luggage, and drop it at a self-service counter on arrival at the airport.

SITA Year On Year Trends
Image Courtesy of SITA

Big Changes Ahead For Baggage Tracking

There are also significant changes happening behind the scenes with the International Air Transport Association's Resolution 753 coming into effect in June 2018.

From mid-2018, airlines will need the technology and processes to track luggage from check-in, onto the plane, and into arrivals or a transfer area. And be able to share all of this information with the next airline or airport in the process.

Across all airlines this will be a fundamental driver of how bags are tracked, the technologies used, and will also require a universal system for sharing information across airlines and airports of tracking information.

The Future Of Live Baggage Tracking For Passengers

With the roll out of the IATA's new rules in 2018, and with passenger numbers set to double to 7 billion by 2034, expect a continued heavy focus on advancing technologies in the tracking and baggage-handling departments from both airlines and airports.

A natural evolution of all this new tracking data will be an increase in passengers ability to track luggage throughout the baggage-handling process. Lufthansa and American Airlines both recently introduced systems allowing customers on certain flights to track baggage in real time, and this will expand out to more airlines as the technology rolls out.

Although currently only enjoyed by 2% of air travelers, it's also a pretty safe bet to assume that airlines will start to embrace live tracking apps for passenger luggage.

For a more in-depth look, you can view the full 24-page report here.

The Latest SITA 2016 Baggage Report – What You Need To Know
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