There is still much work to do with checked baggage reconciliation; PinPoint from Amadeus and Sigfox collaboration is one of many paths that could ease the pain

The International Air Transport Association’s Resolution 753 on baggage tracking enables airlines to address the challenge of baggage mishandling by implementing cross-industry tracking for every baggage journey. Baggage Tracking is part of the IATA end-to-end baggage programme that aims to improve efficiencies in baggage handling operations to meet the changing demands of passengers as the air transport industry is set to double in size by 2035.

It came into effect in Jun-2018 and requires IATA airlines to keep tabs on every item of baggage from journey start to journey finish or, in its own words, “maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage”. But, bags still fail to reach their destination as they should. While most are simply mishandled and are soon reunited with their owner, this is a USD2.3 billion cost to the industry and a major inconvenience to travellers.

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 onto the aircraft, transfers and arrival – to improve baggage management and further reduce the chances of a bag being mishandled.

Airlines that are adding tracking at more points of the baggage journey are enjoying a huge improvement in bag delivery globally, according to SITA’s 2019 Baggage IT Insights report. It shows that where tracking is done at check-in and loading onto the aircraft, the rate of improvement is as high as 66%.

But, this improvement has come as the record drop in the baggage mishandling rate achieved globally over the past decade has plateaued, with the rate steady at around 5.7 bags per thousand passengers over the past three years. Last year, the rate was actually up marginally (+2.2%) with 5.69 mishandled bags per thousand passengers, but that was on the back of a +6.6% upswing in passenger numbers to 4.36 billion.

It is one area of the industry where technology could make a clear difference. Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds tremendous promise to transform and improve baggage handling once viable data streams are established. But there are various other paths that technological adoption can help ease the pain.

Among these, this month, IT solutions provider for the travel and tourism industry Amadeus and Internet of Things (IoT) service provider Sigfox have launched PinPoint, a strategic alliance to provide reusable, affordable, and globally connected tracking solutions for travel industry assets.

The agreement results from a year-long collaboration investigating business opportunities within the travel industry and developing a portfolio of solutions they describe as “not only help meet the growing need for efficient asset tracking solutions, but also reduce operational challenges for airports and airlines”.

It is obvious that the full adoption of tracking technology requires expensive infrastructure updates, such as gates and readers, but existing applications still provide limited interoperability and geolocation capabilities.

PinPoint aims to bring reusable, cost and energy-efficient trackers to the market, which will be connected and communicating through the Sigfox 0G global network. These globally connected trackers will offer airports and airlines access to real-time information about the location of not just luggage, but also high value assets, such as spare-parts, landing gear, Unit Load Devices (ULD) and much more.

Through reusable tags placed on luggage, proximity sensors installed across airports and Sigfox global coverage, the company claims airlines will be able to monitor and accurately track location and also detect any movement anomalies, using Sigfox Bubble technology, a beaconing solution enabling proximity detection to just one or a few tens of meters subject to settings.

Such innovations obviously have the potential to help solve the problem of mishandled baggage, but could also be used in wider industry. Cost has for a long-time been a prohibitive force in the quest for a solution to the missing luggage issue, but as we make further technological advancements and continue the journey to digitalisation, it is clear that an increasing number of options could soon be on the table.