April 18, 2008
42m mishandled luggage costing S$5.1b went missing last year
But one bag for every 2,000 passengers was lost forever.
By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent, Straits Times
THEY waited and waited at airports but their bags never came.
For many of the owners of about 42 million pieces of luggage that went 'missing' last year, their belongings eventually arrived within 48 hours.
But one bag for every 2,000 passengers was lost forever, according to the latest report by Sita - a Geneva-based information technology company that helps track baggage.
Around the world, airports handled 2.25 billion bags last year, which meant perfect landing more than 98 per cent of the time.
Still, the delayed and lost bags cost the industry a stagggering US$3.8 billion (S$5.1 billion) - a sum it can ill afford to lose given sky-high fuel prices and other challenges on the horizon, experts said.
The report blamed growing passenger numbers, tight aircraft turnaround times and increased security, for the problem of mishandled baggage.
Data for Changi Airport was not immediately available but Singapore Airlines which handled more than 18 million pieces of checked-in luggage across its network last year, said fewer than four out of every 1,000 bags were delayed.
About 200 bags were forever lost, said SIA spokesman Stephen Forshaw.
According to the Sita report, more than half of the bags that did not arrive with their owners went missing during transit.
Even with a success rate of over 98 per cent globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) - the global voice of airports - wants to see improvements.
It has warned that unless the situation improves and with annual passenger numbers expected to reach 2.75 billion by 2011, the industry is looking at well over 50 million mishandled bags a year.
To help airports and airlines reduce the problem of mishandled baggage, Iata aims to visit six airports and work with six airlines this year to share best practices. This is part of its recently-launched Baggage Improvement Programme (BIP).
Iata is also encouraging the use of Radio Frequency Identification or RFID technology for more efficient tracking of bags. Most airports today use bar code technology for baggage tagging.