A new report by aviation technology provider SITA reveals that mishandled bags increased by 24% to 4.35 bags per thousand passengers as international travel resumes. The Baggage IT Insights 2022 shows that the mishandling rate is up from 3.5 checked bags per 1,000 in 2020, although it is still lower than 5.6 per 1,000 in 2019.
Cuts across the workforce because of the pandemic have affected the industry’s ability to manage the bags in the same way. One of the most pressing demands during the recovery period is doing more with less. Investments in technology that allow for greater automation and self-service are now a priority, enabling airports, airlines, and ground handler tenants to increase efficiency in a safe environment.
After bringing the industry to a near halt in 2020, the pandemic entered a new phase in 2021 as borders started to open slowly and passengers returned. While 2.28 billion passengers traveled in 2021, the figure is still a long way off the pre- pandemic high of 4.54 billion in 2019. Despite the uptick in mishandled bags from 2020, the 9.9 million bags mishandled in 2021 represents a 77% reduction from the 46.9 million mishandled in 2007.
IATA predicts that air travel will not return to pre- crisis levels until 2024.1 Still, airports and airlines are speeding up investments in touchless self-service processes to make the journey through the airport safer for passengers and staff.
2021 marked a turning point as traffic returned across the world. The 2.28 billion total passengers still represents an 8.2% fall from the figures of 2007 but an increase from the 1.8 billion in 2020.
As more passengers and flights return, the strains of a global crisis make getting bags to their destination(s) a tougher task. The 2021 mishandling rate of 4.35 bags per thousand passengers is a 24% increase from 2020. Despite that rise, between 2007 and 2021, the mishandling rate per thousand passengers has reduced by 77%, from 18.88 bags to 4.35 bags.
Delayed bags accounted for 71% of all mishandled bags in 2021 – a 2% increase from 2020. At the same time, the number of lost and stolen bags increased slightly to 6%, while those that were damaged and pilfered decreased to 23%.
Staff accessing real-time information on mobile devices continues to be a focus for investment, with almost all airlines (83%) planning to provide staff access to real-time baggage status information by 2024, a considerable increase from 43% today.
Transfer bags historically account for most mishandled bags. An increase in long-haul flights in 2021 has pushed up the bags delayed at transfer to 41% – a 4% increase from 2020. At the same time, there was a decrease in mishandling as a result of failure to load (18% in 2021); a decrease from ticketing errors, bag switches, security and other miscellaneous factors (18%); and a decrease from airport, customs, weather, or space-weight restrictions (8%). Loading errors, arrival mishandling, and tagging errors remain unchanged from 2020.
The mishandling rates on international routes is much higher compared to domestic routes. The mishandling rate at the global level on international routes is 8.7 per thousand passengers, while only 1.85 for domestic routes. At a global level the likelihood of mishandling a bag is about 4.7 times higher on international routes compared to domestic routes.