Opinion

We must rethink how we handle air passengers and their baggage

By Barbara Dalibard, CEO, SITA


The COVID-19 pandemic morphed 2020 into an unrecognizable year for the air transport industry, with passenger numbers plunging and pressure to redesign operations to meet changing travel regulations.

Despite reduced workforces at airports and airlines globally, the per capita mishandled bag rate continued
to decline (3.5 per thousand passengers in 2020).

A significant reduction in long-haul flights meant fewer transfer bags, which historically account for most mishandled bags. Fewer passengers and flights also made getting bags to the plane an easier task, with
less chance of disruptions.

However, the time taken to resolve mishandled bag files has increased from reduced
resources dedicated to bags, an area that will need to be monitored carefully as passenger volumes recover.

One positive outcome has been the acceleration of digitalization projects, with a concerted and unified push
towards self-service and touchless technologies and operations. Three-quarters of airports and airlines are
prioritizing touchless bag tagging options that rely on kiosks and passengers’ mobile devices.

A large majority of airlines and most airports plan to make touchless unassisted self-bag drop available by 2023. Passengers have embraced the shift towards touchless, with increasing numbers using mobile technology,
and those who do reporting higher satisfaction rates. However, baggage remains an area where self-service and mobile technology adoption is slower compared to mobile check-in or self-boarding.

Quickly harnessing current technology solutions was key for survival during the pandemic, but this
year’s unparalleled disruption marks an opportunity to reimagine and introduce new ways of handling
passengers and their baggage.

There is broad industry alignment that we must find green, sustainable, and contactless approaches that boost passenger confidence, reduce bottlenecks at airports, and enable efficient operations. The pressure to reduce the total costs of managing bags is at an all-time high.

We were excited to partner with customers to trial new solutions to reduce costs through innovative technologies like SITA Bag Vision. Currently in the trial phase, SITA Bag Vision uses artificial intelligence-powered computer vision technology to match images of a bag captured at check-in and during sortation, eliminating the need for a bag tag in identifying bags.

Outside of baggage, in 2021, SITA stepped up its efforts to address these industry efficiency challenges launching WorldTracer® Lost and Found Property, an artificial intelligence-enabled solution that cuts the cost of
repatriating lost items by 90%.

Together with our partners and customers, SITA will continue to explore technology solutions that address the challenges of today while building a more sustainable and resilient industry for the future.

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