You’ll have seen the images spreading across the media: the “baggage mountains” accumulating at airports around the globe as passengers wait to be reunited with their delayed bags. The numbers reflect the industry’s current difficulties in maintaining effective baggage management processes amid surging passenger traffic as we emerge from the pandemic.
Baggage mishandling: what do the numbers say?
May 2022 saw a similar number of mishandled bag reports to May 2019, before the pandemic. The number of reports in June 2022 slightly surpassed the figure for June 2019, even though passenger traffic had not yet caught up with pre-pandemic levels. This means that the rate of mishandled bags per passenger could be significantly higher for May-June 2022 compared to the same period in 2019.
Technology is the answer
Much of the challenge is down to staff shortages at airlines, airports, and ground handlers. They downsized to survive the pandemic, strongly impacting baggage management resources and expertise. In only a few months, they’ve had to switch from survival mode to almost full-scale operations due to the swift recovery of passenger traffic over the summer. Some concentrated spikes in traffic have even surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Fast recruitment to meet the demand has proven difficult amid a tight labor market.
How can industry stakeholders address this challenge, curb the baggage mishandling rate, and generate greater operational efficiencies?
They must do more with less. The answer lies in smart technologies that automate key processes, allowing airports and airlines to reallocate the staff they have where they are most needed. Automation and digitalization will enable the industry to better utilize its staff’s expertise, keep passengers happy, and make strides in saving cost and time. Technology also provides the agility to scale operations up and down based on demand, a much-needed capability these days.
A proactive approach to preventing mishandling
Customers who’ve implemented SITA Bag Manager report a 20% reduction in the number of bags mishandled. Ground handling service provider dnata Singapore is among them. They integrated the solution with over 40 airline customers and Changi Airport’s baggage systems.
The benefits don’t end there. The solution can be customized to help ensure swift aircraft turnaround and on-time performance, leading to time, cost, and energy savings. Offloading bags when a checked-in passenger fails to board the aircraft can cause flight delays. For this reason, Saudia implemented a ‘never onto aircraft’ notification direct to staff devices in the SITA Bag Manager application. This lets staff quickly identify whether a bag belongs to a boarded passenger, reducing on-stand time delays by up to 20 minutes.
Empowering passengers while boosting efficiency
The blow the pandemic has dealt to the industry is apparent now more than ever. But it’s exciting to see demand for travel rebound after the prolonged period of disruption. Airlines, airports, and ground handlers can effectively navigate the recovery by embracing digitalization and smart technologies. We at SITA, a trusted partner to the industry, are confident they will succeed, and we’re here to help.