An emergency warning system is being launched across the UK, to provide localised warnings of floods, fires, or other serious risks to health. A rational use of technology, based on most people carrying a smartphone.
Of course these issues are more serious than no clean underwear, or the suit you needed for a meeting in Frankfurt arriving in Bombay.
There is still a relationship between the two problems, that time has given us the technology to provide solutions. Despite this, the way luggage is handled at airports has not changed much in decades.
The Current Position
The origins of a rise in lost luggage issues lie in staff shortages and the loss of experienced staff. Many people were made redundant during the pandemic’s international travel bans and the aviation industry has been slow to rehire.
In a difficult staffing environment, airlines, airports and contractors spend time blaming each other. Their energies might be better devoted to finding solutions.
Passengers have started to use available tracking devices, such as Apple AirTags, or GPS devices. They can help to a degree but don’t stop the backlogs that prevent your baggage from being on the same flight as you.
What is needed is sytems which eliminate the piles of thousands of bags, whether lost, or simply unable to be processed. From security scans, to ground handling, that is a demanding task which staff are currently unable to manage.
We can not instantly rebuild airport terminals but can look at ways to enhance facilities. One company has created AI based software which carries out security scans much faster than people, yet does so using existing x-ray and CT scanners.
This is an add on providing 24/7 support, to gives luggage a better chance of being delivered to your plane on time. Other systems could do the same, including those being developed on top of tracking technology.
They will ultimately give out alerts when an item is out of sync and provide precise locations. Staff need to be involved but to a lesser extent than they would be if luggage is truly lost.
Alongside passenger satisfaction, airports and airlines will see savings from encouraging and adopting new approaches. They need to ensure development budgets are available and the will to adopt alternatives.
Another start up is tackling lost luggage problems by removing a need for passengers to check in their luggage. They can instead have items collected at their home and taken directly to the airport’s luggage handling area.
This is convenient and will eliminate some of the loss points, along with tasks which take up airports staff’s time. The approach is however expensive to the end user and bypasses, rather than deals with problems which need to be cured.
Gradual staff reintroduction will help but even if we go back before the pandemic, lost luggage was not a rarity. In 2019, 20 million items of luggage were misplaced globally, over a million of them never seen again.
We care because we issue ATA carnets for use with hand luggage and because if air travel has a bad reputation, all business suffers. Baggage management software has been is use for years but the time has come to go beyond this.
A few human roles may be lost but there is ample opportunity to redeploy. We don’t need to invent new technology to eliminate a high percentage of lost luggage, simply dedicate time and skill to applying what is available.