Baggage mishandling: What do the numbers say?
While mishandling still affects a relatively small proportion of all bags, Sita’s 2022 Baggage IT Insights report reveals that more bags were mishandled in 2021 than in 2020. As the industry’s recovery began in 2021, the global rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers reached 4.35, up 24% from 2020.
Our management system for mishandled baggage, WorldTracer, gave us an idea of how things are this year. The system recorded roughly three times more mishandled bag reports for January to March 2022 compared to the previous-year period. From April to June 2022, the system showed five times more mishandled bag reports than in the second quarter of 2021.
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 to June 2022 compared to the same period in 2019.
As the recovery of international passenger traffic accelerates, the rate could go up further because, historically, transfers from one flight to another account for most mishandling. The 2022 Baggage IT Insights research found that globally, the likelihood of mishandling a bag is about 4.7 times higher on international routes than on domestic routes.
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.