Mohammad Nasser Al Otaiba and Peter Drummond addressing the media at the launch of the SITA Baggage IT Insights report at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Transfers from one aircraft to another at airports remains the biggest reason why passengers’ bags get lost, stolen, damaged, pilfered or delayed, a top official said in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Abu Dhabi International Airport, which handles an average of 54,200 bags every day, mishandles two per 1,000 bags per day, way below the global average of 5.69, said Mohammad Nasser Al Otaiba, general manager of operations, while addressing a media briefing at the airport.

“The mishandled luggage rate at the airport last year was registered at 5.3 per 1,000 bags. But this year, we have reduced it by 50 per cent. Still, we strive to make sure all passengers receive their bags on time,” said Otaiba.

“In 2019, the average rate of bags mishandled at the Abu Dhabi Airport didn’t increase in the first quarter, and it registered two per 1,000 bags,” he added.

Of the 54,200 checked-in bags handled each day at the Abu Dhabi airport, 12,900 are at arrivals and 13,300 at departures, while and transferable bags constitute 28,000.

Last year, Abu Dhabi installed automated tag readers across the arrival belts at Terminal 1 and 3, tracking an average of 54,398 bags a day.

Timely delivery of baggage is key to ensuring a seamless passenger experience. We have led the way with the introduction of tracking baggages on arrival.

- Ahmad Juma Al Shamsi, Acting chief operations officer at Abu Dhabi airport

Ahmad Juma Al Shamsi, acting cief operations officer at the airport, said: “Timely delivery of baggage is key to ensuring a seamless passenger experience. We have led the way with the introduction of tracking baggages on arrival and we have already seen significant improvements.”

According to SITA, transfer bags account for 46 per cent of all mishandled bags.

190425 baggage handling
Source: SITA Baggage IT Insights report Image Credit: ©Gulf News

Other reasons for mishandling include ticketing errors, bag switches, security, loading errors, arrival mishandling, customs, weather, space and weight restrictions, failure to load and tagging errors.

Peter Drummond, director of baggage at SITA, said, “Transfer is by far the most difficult stage to track a bag as there are multiple airlines and airports involved. However, data from this year’s report shows that tracking at key points in the journey, such as transfers, will go a long way to eliminating mishandling and will allow airlines and their passengers to keep tabs on where their bags are at every step of the way.”

Global baggage handling

The SITA 2019 Baggage IT Insights annual report, which was released at Abu Dhabi International Airport, yesterday stated in 2018, 4.36 billion passengers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags globally, of which 5.69 bags per 1,000 passengers were mishandled, down from a decade’s steady rate of 5.7.

SITA manages luggage at 2,800 airports, including Abu Dhabi.

Delayed bags accounted for over three guarters of all mishandled bags in 2018, the report said.

Over the past year, an increasing number of airlines and airports have started to introduce tracking at key points in the journey – check-in, loading, transfers and arrival – to improve baggage management and further reduce the chances of mishandling.

SITA’s research showed that where bags are tracked when being loaded onto the aircraft, the rate of improvement ranged between 38 and 66 per cent depending on the level of tracking introduced.

According to Drummond, “While the mishandling rate has started to plateau in the past few years, this comes against a continued growth in passenger numbers and their bags. In 2018, 4.36 billion travellers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags. More bags makes things more challenging.”

Over the past decade, the total number of mishandled bags per annum has plummeted 47 per cent from 46.9 million in 2007 to 24.8 million in 2018, while the annual bill footed by the industry has shrunk 43 per cent to $2.4 billion, down from $4.22 billion in 2007, the annual SITA report said.

How to safeguard your luggage

■ Use TSA-approved locks on the zippers and baggage locks.

■ Don’t put anything with significant density like a thick book or a large block of cheese so security can’t see through it. Chances of opening the bag are higher.

■ Don’t put valuables in your checked luggage like jewellery, money or expensive watches.

■ Smartly tag your luggage with your name and destination to avoid switch.

■ Double check the tag before you pick up luggage from the belt