We’ve all been there. An easy trip to the airport, no lines at security and a great flight that even arrives a few minutes early. It’s all going wonderfully well and then it isn’t. We’ve arrived at our destination airport, but our baggage didn’t.

One of the biggest ways to ruin the travel experience is to mishandle passengers’ bags. An airline can offer the most impressive in-flight service imaginable, but it won’t change the fact that the loss of a passenger’s bag will be the main thing that they remember about their journey.

Beyond creating an unfavorable customer experience, it’s expensive. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates the costs associated with reconnecting a bag with its passenger at $100 USD per bag, meaning that mishandled baggage results in a reduced profit margin.  In 2016 alone, the aviation industry spent $2.1 billion in mishandled bag fees.

Given its importance, it might be surprising to learn that the ability to track a passenger’s bags throughout their journey was recently identified as a key element missing from many of today’s airport and airline environments.

To correct this, earlier this year, International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued Resolution 753, an industry-wide mandatory baggage tracking initiative designed to ensure that baggage tracking information is recorded and exchanged by member airlines as needed, at each step of a bag’s journey.

What is IATA Resolution 753?

Essentially, the resolution says that an airline must track a bag onto the aircraft, into arrivals or into transfers. The airline must also be capable of sharing this tracking information with other airlines as needed (i.e. for interline transfers).  IATA Resolution 753 becomes effective in June 2018 and because it is mandatory for all member airlines, it will impact everyone in the aviation industry.

On the surface, implementing the resolution may seem simple enough but in many cases, it will require airlines to get support from a number of stakeholders, such as airports and ground handlers. This could make implementing baggage tracking more complex and, in some instances, require changes in processes and/or infrastructure.

So what do aviation organizations need to know to create a plan for compliance? “Airlines must plan now to be ready to implement IATA Resolution 753,” said Cliff Burchfield, Director of International Business Development at Brock Solutions, a leading engineering solutions and professional services company specializing in baggage management. “For airlines, this involves understanding the Resolution’s requirements, getting a grasp on their current situation, identifying gaps and defining the best strategy to maximize the benefits that Resolution 753 could bring.”

Specifically, Resolution 753 states that “IATA members shall maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage.”  This means that by June 2018, IATA members must be able to:

  • Demonstrate acquisition of baggage when custody changes
  • Demonstrate delivery of baggage when custody changes
  • Provide an accurate inventory of bags upon departure of a flight
  • Be capable of exchanging these events with other airlines as needed.

Mandatory Tracking Points

At a minimum, IATA Resolution 753 requires the following tracking points to be recorded:

  • Acquisition from the passenger (i.e. at check-in)
  • Delivery onto an aircraft (i.e. when the flight is loaded)
  • Delivery and acquisition when custody changes between carriers (i.e. interline transfers)
  • Delivery to the passenger (i.e. upon arrival)

Why Does This Matter?

Airlines will need to begin scanning bags at these mandatory tracking points – essentially, at any point where a bag changes custody (passenger to airport, airport to airline, airline to passenger, etc.).  Custody changes present opportunities for bags to get mishandled, and are the first place to start looking for missing bags.  “Scanning bags at the listed mandatory tracking points and recording all transactions in a centralized database creates a searchable bag history for each bag,” notes Burchfield.

Baggage Tracking Benefits

Compliance with IATA Resolution 753 will bring a number of benefits to the industry, the greatest being a reduction of mishandled baggage.  “With a detailed bag history that documents the bag’s location and timestamp at every handoff point, locating missing bags becomes a far simpler process, reducing the number of mishandled bags and the associated costs, and improving customer satisfaction,” said Burchfield.

Hub or connection point efficiencies can also be improved by knowing which bags have not made their flight. In the rare instance when a bag does not arrive with a passenger, additional information collected for each bag will enable proactive baggage recovery.

Baggage fraud will be reduced by closing the bag’s journey, and exceptions can be detected (such as where bags are delivered to a party but not processed further).  The bag-to-passenger reconciliation process for departing flights will be improved as each bag is scanned, providing a detailed record of the bag’s location, as well as an indication of whether or not each bag has the authority to be loaded onto the aircraft.  All of these improvements can help airports and airlines measure compliance with service level agreements (SLAs).

“Bottom line, the full benefits of baggage tracking will be realized when tracking data is collected and used. IATA Resolution 753 will bring a number of significant benefits to airlines, airports and most importantly, passengers. Airlines and other stakeholders should prepare now to ensure they are ready,” notes Burchfield.

Chelsea Barone

About Chelsea Barone

Chelsea is an editor for Connected Aviation Today, managing the day-to-day editorial activities. Chelsea writes for other federal government and technology industry publications. Her background lies in B2B and enterprise technology, specifically cloud computing, SaaS, travel IT, and mobile devices.