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Europe has the highest rate of luggage mishandling in the world

Young handsome man passenger in 20s with carry-on backpack collecting his luggage at conveyor belt in arrivals lounge of airport terminal building

Young handsome man passenger in 20s with carry-on backpack collecting his luggage at conveyor belt in arrivals lounge of airport terminal building

Delayed or lost luggage is the most frustrating thing about travel, but airlines are finally starting to do something about it.

Europe may be one of the most popular travel destinations for Australians, but it is also the most popular destination for lost luggage, a new study has revealed.

According to the SITA 2018 Baggage Report, the baggage mishandling rate in Europe is the highest in the world. For every thousand passengers, 6.94 bags were lost as a result of mishandling in 2017, well above the global average of 5.57 bags per thousand fliers.

In the USA and Asia Pacific, by comparison, baggage mishandling rates were markedly below the global average at 2.4 and 1.94 respectively.

However, don’t go trying to stuff all your clothes into a carry-on item just yet — at a rate of 6.94 bags per 1000 passengers, that’s just a 0.7% chance your luggage will be lost. In addition, the report also reveals that the problem of lost luggage in one of our favourite holiday destinations has improved dramatically.

In just one year, the mishandling rate in Europe improved by 13%, down from 8.06 lost bags per 1000 passengers in 2016. Over the past decade, mishandled luggage in the continent has dropped by 58%.

Fortunately, this is indicative of a worldwide trend. Baggage handling globally has improved significantly over the past decade. Since 2007, the rate of lost luggage has dropped by a whopping 70% the report found, even with a 64% increase in passenger numbers.

In fact, the global average of 5.57 lost bags per thousand passengers is the lowest rate of mishandled bags ever recorded by SITA.

Is lost luggage a thing of the past?

SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard said smart innovations in technology have been the major driver behind the drop in lost luggage.

“Over the last decade, we have seen significant improvements in bag management as airlines have taken advantage of technology,” she said.

These innovations, such as real-time tracking of luggage using RFID technology, have cut the industry’s mishandled baggage costs by nearly 50% from $US4.22 to $US2.1 billion in just a decade. So as airlines reap the cost benefits, allowing them to invest in tracking technology on a wider scale, the most frustrating thing about travel could become a thing of the past.

US carrier Delta Air Lines says RFID technology has given it a 99.9% accuracy rate in the US. The airline is now planning on rolling out RFID baggage tagging at Heathrow airport in the UK together with airports in France and the Netherlands.

And if those sort of results don’t sway other airlines into following suit, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Resolution 753 will. The resolution, which came into effect from June this year, set new minimum requirements for baggage tracking.

It stipulates that all IATA member airlines — which represent 83% of global air traffic — will be expected to set up four tracking points for the bag (check-in, loading, transfer and arrival) and share that data with all those involved in a bag’s transportation from beginning to end.

“Now with IATA’s drive for 100% bag tracking, technology adoption will rise further,” Ms Dalibard said.

“End-to-end tracking produces data which reveals where improvements can be made in operational processes. While we won’t see a sudden change in 2018, it is a real turning point for the industry as airlines begin to unlock the value of the tracking data for the 4.65 billion bags they carry.”

Reasons for delayed luggage in 2017

The report also highlighted the main reasons travellers find their bag has been delayed, with transfer mishandlings accounting for almost half (47%) of all delays.

To minimise the headache of lost or delayed luggage when travelling, make sure you understand what your rights and responsibilities are as well as the airline’s, and always take out travel insurance.

Travel insurance policies will reimburse you for the purchase of essential personal items necessary until your luggage arrives or until you receive compensation from the airline.

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