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Old March 22nd, 2006, 02:00 AM   #1
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MISC | Report Says Airlines Lost 30M Bags in 2005

Report Says Airlines Lost 30M Bags in 2005
21 March 2006

GENEVA (AP) - If you've ever been frustrated after an airline lost your luggage, you're in the good company of millions of others. An estimated 30 million bags were temporarily lost by airlines in 2005, and 200,000 of those bags were never reunited with their owners, according to an industry report released Monday.

The report by SITA Inc., a company that provides technology solutions for the air transport industry, also noted that "the problem of mishandled baggage is worsening on both sides of the Atlantic."

The 30 million misdirected bags comprised only 1 percent of the 3 billion bags processed last year by airports, up from 0.7 percent in 2004, said SITA, which is promoting technology it says would reduce the problem.

Last year, mishandled luggage cost world airlines $2.5 billion, compared with $1.6 billion in 2004, SITA said, in a report released before Tuesday's airline and airport passenger services exposition in Paris. The jump partly reflects improvements in data collection, but also the increasing costs resulting from inadequate baggage management.

Greater airport congestion, tight connection times, increased transfers among airlines and stricter security are all contributing to more late or missing bags, said SITA, a Geneva-based company that is owned by the airlines, airports and other international air transport industry companies.

But the biggest problem is the growing number of passengers, whose additional bags cause delays and complicate handling, it said.

"Growth is welcome but it has to be better managed if airlines and airports want to improve the passenger experience by eliminating delays from the system," said Francesco Violante, SITA's managing director.

Mishandling during baggage transfer was the largest single cause last year of a bag failing to arrive with its owner at the intended destination. Other bags were temporarily lost because of airport personnel failing to properly load baggage, ticketing errors, problems with loading or unloading, and weight or size restrictions. Only 3 percent of all misdirection of baggage occurred due to tagging errors.

On average, bags are returned to their owners a little over 31 hours -- or 1.3 days -- after they are reported missing, SITA said.

There is no industry standard for permanently lost bags, and items in some countries are later sold at auction.

In the United States, the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, sells more than 1 million items each year. Most of the merchandise sold is clothing, but also includes cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry and -- of course -- luggage.

To help the airline industry cope with more passengers and more bags, SITA is promoting use of a tiny computer-style chip on luggage tags that it says will reduce the number of misdirected bags. The luggage labels, known as RFID for radio frequency identification tags, allow for tracking of luggage at all times over wireless networks.

The RFID chips also allow for quick removal of baggage from airplanes when the passenger who checked them fails to show up for the flight, SITA said. But the chips are used at only a limited number of airports so far.

"The industry needs more sophisticated baggage reconciliation systems and greater use of self-service such as check-in through kiosks and on the Web," Violante said. "This will all help to simplify travel, reduce delays and baggage misconnections."

SITA also promotes new technologies aimed at allowing mobile phone use on flights and offers applications for air-to-ground communications and fares services. It had revenues in 2004 of $1.58 billion.
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Old November 27th, 2007, 05:44 AM   #2
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In Airline Baggage Roulette, Travelers' Odds Are Getting Worse
21 November 2007
The New York Times

CHICAGO -- Why do so many passengers get off the plane only to discover that their baggage did not make the trip with them?

American Airlines started asking that question with greater urgency a year ago, and its search for answers led to, among other problems, dirty printer heads.

Workers at American found that printers that produce adhesive tags for bags were often dirty. That made bar codes hard to read, leading to misdirected bags. Regular wiping of the printer heads helped, but even with a clean printer, the bar code readers are only about 90 to 92 percent accurate, said Denise P. Wilewski, manager of airport services for American here.

''We never hit 100 percent -- 90 percent is acceptable,'' she said.

Airlines are fond of saying that they have a success rate of more than 99 percent in getting luggage to its destination along with its owner. And every big airline has stepped up efforts to improve its operations.

But the baggage problem is getting worse. One in every 138 checked bags was lost during the first nine months of this year, compared with one in 155 bags a year earlier.

The Thanksgiving holiday, with storms moving across the country from the Northwest, is already shaping up as a difficult travel time. And by the end of the year, close to five million travelers will have been stuck scratching their heads at the luggage carousel.

Toby Sherman is one of them. Traveling with his wife and their 7-year-old triplets last weekend, Mr. Sherman of Huntington Beach, Calif., checked five bags with American Airlines at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County. But just four bags showed up in Chicago, where the Shermans had come to spend Thanksgiving with family.

One son's clothes were in the missing bag, said Mr. Sherman, who was planning a trip to the mall to buy some replacements. ''Never a dull moment,'' he said.

Holiday travelers can expect to feel the effects of six years of airline downsizing in one way or another. About 27 million passengers are expected to fly during the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving, 4 percent more than last year, the Air Transport Association said.

But there are fewer airline employees to look after them, and their bags. And to squeeze more flights out of the day, planes are sitting on the ground for shorter periods between flights. So predictably, more bags fail to join their owners, particularly on connecting flights.

''There's a lot of opportunity for failure,'' said Hans Hauck, manager of baggage operations at American's headquarters in Fort Worth. Since Mr. Hauck started his job in September 2006, American has not met its bag-handling goal in any month. As of late last week, though, Mr. Hauck remained optimistic that he would make his November number. A look at American's bag-handling operation, which is the biggest of all United States carriers, shows it is making lots of little improvements but still losing ground. American misplaced 7.44 bags for every thousand passengers through Sept. 30, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported, up from 6.04 for every thousand a year earlier. (All but a tiny fraction of misplaced bags are ultimately reunited with their owners.)

All the big carriers have done worse with baggage so far this year. US Airways continues to struggle with bag handling at its Philadelphia hub, three years and more than $12 million in improvements after a Christmas 2004 meltdown. And Delta Air Lines is trying to improve bag handling at its big Atlanta hub.

Save for a canceled flight, nothing quite disrupts a trip like a lost bag. Mike Laitman of La Grange Park, a Chicago suburb, bought circus tickets for relatives arriving from Missoula, Mont., last Saturday. Then, he watched a missing bag keep them all at O'Hare so long they missed the show.

Baggage representatives for Alaska Airlines ''told us to keep waiting,'' Mr. Laitman said, watching his nephew ride the baggage carousel. ''We're out $70.''

Lost baggage is actually a worse problem than reflected in the big airlines' statistics. Smaller regional airlines misplace bags at a higher rate. But they report their statistics separately, even though many passengers travel on these regional airlines for one leg of their trip.

Counting together American and the regional airline it owns, American Eagle, mishandled bags rise to 8.69 for every thousand passengers, or a total of 639,146 through Sept. 30.

American Eagle had the worst bag-handling record of 20 airlines tracked by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics during that period, the agency reported.

American's baggage operation at O'Hare, the airline's second-largest hub, after Dallas-Fort Worth, is huge, with more than seven miles of conveyers, hundreds of workers and scores of tractors pulling baggage carts.

Checked bags are immediately sent on a fast conveyor to be screened by the Transportation Security Administration and then sent back to American's big bag room. There, bar-code readers direct the bags onto piers that handle one or more destinations. From there, bags are placed on carts and towed out to planes for loading.

Bags with unreadable tags are left to circle the piers up to three times before being hauled off and manually placed in the correct stack.

About 2 percent are misread and dropped onto the wrong pier. Then, it is up to a worker stacking the bags on carts to notice the mistake. ''He better,'' said Ms. Wilewski, the baggage manager.

American and other domestic airlines have resisted investing in radio frequency identification tags, which are used by big retailers to track inventory and are far more accurate. The tags cost about 20 cents each so it would cost $50,000 a day for American's 250,000 bags, plus the cost of hardware to read them at each step in the process.

''We don't lose enough bags to justify that investment,'' said Mark Mitchell, American's managing director of customer experience.

American's workers also stopped unloading entire planes in some instances in the last year, instead hauling off only bags that need to be rushed to connecting flights and then returning for the rest, Ms. Wilewski said. Bags failing to make connections account for 60 percent of mishandled bags, American said.

In the months ahead, American also plans to install laptop computers on tractors that pull baggage carts so that workers know of last-minute gate changes, late arrivals and other complications. Drivers have long used written orders and often arrive at a gate to find the expected plane is not there.

American handles 20,000 to 35,000 checked bags a day in Chicago. Ms. Wilewski's goal for November is 7.95 mishandled bags for every thousand passengers. ''We're not to go above that. We're under it right now,'' she said.

Her Chicago operation met its monthly goal for the first time in two years in May and then met it again in September and October.

So, last Thursday, when morning flights to London and Honolulu were both delayed by more than eight hours because of mechanical problems, her staff quickly rounded up bags that had already been checked, knowing some passengers would switch flights or perhaps cancel their trip altogether.

As some passengers were rebooked, workers tried to keep their bags with them. Ms. Wilewski said they got nearly all the London bags on the correct flights, but ''we did miss maybe fifteen bags on Hawaii'' in the confusion.

When bags are a no-show at the carousel, American -- like some other airlines -- hires contractors to deal with passengers. ''It's face-to-face and it's 90 percent problem resolution,'' said Paul Cody, a manager for Prospect Airport Services, which runs baggageclaim desks for American in Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Improved computer systems allow his workers to tell travelers within hours where their bag is and when it might arrive in a majority of instances, Mr. Cody said. ''That wasn't the case before,'' he said. ''If you're able to provide them with a how, where and when, it really helps.''

For people who do not retrieve the recovered bag themselves from the airport, American uses another contractor, J & W Delivery Systems, to deliver bags around Chicago.

''Most of them think we're the airline,'' said Joe Orto, a J & W owner. ''They give us grief. Most of them are still very angry.''

Then again, he adds, if airlines didn't misplace bags, ''I guess we'd be out of business.''
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Old November 29th, 2010, 07:01 PM   #3
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What travelers with lost bags are owed
2 February 2010
USA Today

If your bag is delayed, the airline may owe you.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in October clarified an existing rule that carriers cover all expenses incurred by passengers because of lost or delayed luggage up to $3,300 per traveler on domestic flights.

The department noted that several airlines had policies that would reimburse travelers only for essential items bought after 24 hours, and only on the outbound legs of their trips.

"Travelers should not have to pay for toiletries or other necessities while they wait for baggage misplaced by airlines," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a written statement issued then. "We expect airlines to comply with all of our regulations and will take enforcement action if they do not."

Airlines may also offer travelers whose bags don't arrive with them some complimentary emergency items. Delta, for instance, will often give passengers a kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash.

Despite the federal rules, airlines generally state in their contracts of carriage that they won't reimburse passengers for the loss of electronics, or other high-value items.

Once a delayed bag arrives, carriers typically deliver it to its owner. But Southwest will give a travel credit that can be used on a future flight if a passenger picks up the bag.

If a passenger is left empty-handed at the baggage carousel, George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, recommends that travelers keep receipts, even for clothing they've had awhile, to show for reimbursement. Taking out travel insurance before a flight is also a way to protect against potential losses, he says.

Passengers can give airlines another way to get their bags to them if luggage tags come off during a journey, says Steve Lott of the International Air Transport Association.

"It's maybe not a bad idea to put a copy of your itinerary in the bag or outside pocket," Lott says. That, he says, "would be a real easy way for an airline to find out where you're going and how to reunite you with your bag."
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Old March 31st, 2011, 11:13 AM   #4
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Global airline luggage delays climb in 2010 due to volcano and bad winter storms
30 March 2011

After two years of improved baggage handling, airlines slipped last year in getting passengers' checked luggage to arrive on time.

European airlines led the decline, while U.S. carriers actually saw a slight improvement.

Worldwide, 29.4 million bags last year didn't arrive on the same flight as their owners, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology provider. That's 12.07 mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers, a 6 percent increase over 2009.

The rise in baggage problems is attributed by SITA to more passengers flying, as well as major travel disruptions from severe winter weather and the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcanic eruption that grounded a large portion of European air traffic in April.

With an unprecedented 300,000 flight cancellations last year, there were bound to be some problems, said SITA spokesman Charlie Pryor.

"It puts huge pressures on the system that they simply weren't designed for," he said.

Difficulty with handling bags was greater in Europe. The mishandled rate there climbed to 12.6 bags per 1,000 passengers from 10.9 bags in 2009. In the United States, the rate fell to 3.57 bags per 1,000 passengers from 3.99 bags, according to the Department of Transportation.

Returning delayed bags to their owners cost airlines $2.95 billion last year, up from $2.5 billion in 2009.

Despite the slip, the airlines are doing substantially better than 2007. Back then, 42.4 million bags were delayed at the rate of 18.86 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

SITA credits the overall improvement to a combination of better tracking and fewer bags being checked because of relatively new fees. U.S. airlines alone are collecting more than $3.3 billion a year in such fees.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 03:31 AM   #5
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12.07/1000 is a LOT. It basically means that, on average, about 5-6 people will lose their baggage (or have delayed baggage) on EVERY A380 flight. I'm wondering if that figure is correct. If it is, it's insanely high. Given that baggage seldom gets lost/delayed point-to-point passengers, I shudder at the thought of what the figure is for connecting passengers.
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