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Bags of secure ideas

Posted 15 September 2017 · Add Comment

Tracking baggage throughout the journey will soon become an industry standard, with the Middle East leading the way. Keith Mwanalushi gained some insight at the SITA IT summit in Brussels.

Preparations are under way across the air transport industry for a major step-change in the way baggage is handled.
Starting in June 2018, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will require its member airlines, which represent 83% of total scheduled traffic, to keep track of every item of luggage, from start to finish, under Resolution 753.
Airlines will also be required to share that tracking information with all involved in delivering those bags back to passengers at their final destination. The intention is to improve customer service at a fundamental level and to drive down industry costs.
“Baggage management is increasingly important these days,” explained Jihad Boueri, SITA vice president for airports solutions for Middle East, India and Africa. “Firstly, from the airline’s side, because of IATA’s Resolution 753, they should track the baggage throughout the journey until it is delivered safely to the passenger, including in transit.”
The second aspect, Boueri highlighted, was the growing trend towards self-service bag drop technology.
SITA recently reported that baggage management by the world’s airlines improved again last year as the industry focused on technology investments and prepared for the IATA directive. According to the air transport IT specialist’s baggage report 2017, the rate of mishandled bags was 5.73 per thousand passengers in 2016, down 12.25% from the previous year and the lowest ever recorded.
By all measure this is welcome news for the rising number of passengers, which last year hit an all-time high of 3.77 billion.
According to SITA, the rate of mishandled baggage has fallen 70% since 2007 due to investment in technologies and process improvements by the world’s airlines and airports. Over the coming 18 months, this is expected to improve even further.
What has changed is that airlines, airports and the passenger are all interested in baggage solutions. “Previously, it was left to the airport. It was the airport’s responsibility but now we see more airlines coming into the baggage reconciliation and tracking area.”
Boueri said Turkish Airlines was currently implementing its system. In April, Qatar Airways announced it was the first airline in the world to achieve compliance with Resolution 753 at its hub in Hamad International Airport (HIA).
The certification has been achieved on the back of Qatar Airways’ baggage management system – what the airline refers to as “HAQIBA.” The system was developed in-house and integrates in real time with the Qatar Airways website and mobile app.
The Qatari airline now offers real-time updates on checked baggage on its website and mobile app, providing what it says is a hassle-free baggage experience. The mobile app provides notification to passengers with relevant updates on the bag, as well as the ability to retrieve the details on a need basis.
The information includes various stages of the baggage-handling process such as check-in, transfer, arrival, as well as reference to bag tags and baggage belt. This information guides passengers during the journey and provides insight into any instance of delayed or lost baggage.
A critical pinch-point in the bag-handling process is when passengers and their luggage need to move from one aircraft to another, or from one carrier to another. Bags have a higher risk of being mishandled at this time, particularly if connections are tight.
In 2016, according to SITA, close to half (47%) of delayed bags were in the process of being transferred. Introducing mandatory tracking at this point of the process will provide real-time data that can be used to avoid delays.
Mishandled baggage negatively affects both the passenger experience and the airline’s finances and SITA’s report shows that the financial costs remain high, despite the 12.25% drop in the mishandled rate. The global bill for recovering and reuniting passengers with their bags was in the order of $2.1 billion in 2016.
“In the region, Royal Air Maroc are negotiating with us now for a total solution linked to baggage,” Boueri revealed. He stressed there was a growing collaboration between airlines and airports on solving baggage-related issues.
“For the airports, they have to sort out the check-in facility. So, if you do a web check-in at home and you are travelling with bags, you will still have to go to the counter and check-in. This is why we see more requests from airports for self-bag drop so that the passenger can handle the baggage and check-in at the same time.”
In addition to the airport and the airline, SITA is working towards the passenger experience and keeping them informed. “It’s good to know that your baggage is travelling safely and IATA’s initiative will allow the airline to track it but it’s also important that the passenger knows where his luggage is and this is where we come in with some solutions,” Boueri said.
For instance, SITA’s ‘BagJourney’ solution is the first community-based baggage tracking system that provides an end-to-end view of the baggage journey using data from multiple sources.
“We are able to track the bag and inform the passenger’s mobile phone. If there is a delay, or if it’s in transit, the traveller knows. We can remove the frustration baggage issues cause, for instance knowing that the bag is arriving on the next flight so that you don’t wait at the airport.”
Boueri explained that SITA is capable of providing this service through what is known as the ‘bag message’. The airport or airline will build its own application through the SITA application-programming interface (API).
He explained that, at any point, readers would detect the bag and tell the passenger exactly where it was, either at the airport, in transit or on the aircraft.
“This message is sent by the airline to the API and then forwarded to the passenger, but the airport or airline has to build their mobiles apps – or we can build it for them. SITA does all the infrastructure.”
In terms of investment, Boueri said it was minimal and required a simple subscription. “It’s easy, you pay as you go by message essentially, through the subscribing system.”
The SITA report shows that three of the top four mobile services passengers say they would definitely use the system, if available, in relation to tracking the status of luggage.
There is a reflection of concern passengers feel about what’s happening to their bags, which was also noted in SITA’s report last year. As well as the desire to track their bags in real-time via an app, detailed earlier, 66% would report mishandled bags via their smartphone or tablet at the arrival airport; and 62% would receive bag collection details on their smartphone or tablet.
The desire for mobile travel services that allow passengers to personalise their trip or make their journey better by booking extras such as taxis, hotels and tickets for attractions, is underscored by the 59% of passengers who say they would use a digital travel concierge.
As baggage-tracking takes a higher profile within the industry and among passengers, it opens the door for IT specialists and for aviation outsiders to come up with smart baggage solutions.
Industrial internet consortium members GE Digital, M2Mi, and Oracle, supported by integration specialist Infosys, are leading a new airline and passenger test bed called ‘smart airline baggage management’.
This aims to reduce the instances of delayed, damaged and lost bags. The project will also address the baggage requirements of Resolution 753.
The smart airline baggage management test bed, which is part of a broader aviation ecosystem vision, is also intended to increase the ability to report on baggage, including location information, to prevent theft and loss; and to improve customer satisfaction through better communication.

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