Lost luggage in the land Downunder

September 27, 2017
bag tracking Air France

The mishandled baggage rate for international departures across Australia’s major airports is more than twice the average  for the Asia-Pacific region,  according to figures revealed in a rare glimpse of Downunder luggage problems.

The Australian Government does not report mishandled baggage but international airlines teamed with technology company Unisys to look at rates for passengers departing Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne airports.

The analysis, released by the Board Of Airline Representatives of Australia, looked at about 60 per cent of departing international flights across the airports.

It estimated the rate of mishandled bags for 2016-17 was 3.9 per thousand passengers, resulting in about 85,000 mishandled bags and a cost to international airlines of about $A25 million.

This compares with a 2016 Asia-Pacific figure of 1.81 bags per 1000 passengers reported by another technology company, SITA.  It is also higher than the US rate of 2.7 bags per 1000 passengers recorded by the Department of Transportation for 2016.

However, it is lower than SITA’s 2016  global rate of 5.73 bags per 1000 passengers.

Unsurprisingly, bags were more likely to be mishandled during the complex process of transferring between carriers and ground handlers.

Thw BARA-Unisys analysis found 46 per cent of mishandled bags were transfer bags —  a figure consistent with the  figure 47 per cent in the SITA global study — but they accounted for just 8 per cent of the total.

It calculated the rate of mishandled transfer bags was about 10 times that of direct check-in bags.

The analysis also found bags were more likely to be mishandled during the peak summer holiday travel period with the rate over December-January rising to 5.1 per 1000 passengers.

The term mishandled baggage does not necessarily mean luggage has been lost or destroyed; it can simply mean it has become separated from its owner. In many cases, the two are eventually reunited.

Nonetheless, it is one of the areas airlines are intent on improving through an International Air Transport Association resolution due to come into effect in the middle of 2018.

BARA said airlines already had a $A25 million financial incentive to improve baggage handling but airports were “financially insulated” from the problem. It called for a move to aeronautical service agreements that would address the situation.

“A rise in the rate of mishandled bags makes no dent in airport annual profits,’’  BARA  said “With little to no ‘financial skin in the game’, even if the airport is reporting outcomes to airlines as part of its key performance indicator (KPI) regime, it lacks the same financial incentive as airlines to invest in its service delivery capability.’’

BARA said projects that would help reduce the mishandled bagged rate included equal priority for baggage makeup space, improved maintenance of baggage systems, and tracking bags across handover points.