GENEVA – Airline passengers suffered more delays than ever in retrieving their luggage last year as 42 million bags went missing, 25 per cent more than in 2006, according to a report issued on Thursday.
Of these, 3 percent or one bag for every 2,000 travellers, were never found, said the report from the Geneva-based SITA organisation which provides computerised services including baggage handling to the air travel industry.
SITA said the overall cost to carriers of mishandled baggage in 2007 was some $90 per piece for a total of $3.8 billion, which the industry — just returning to profit after six years of global losses — could ill afford.
“Once again, the past year has seen an increase in the amount of baggage mishandled worldwide,” said SITA’s chief executive Francesco Volante.
The main causes were congestion due to growing passenger numbers, tight aircraft turnaround times and increased security.
The report — issued at a conference in Amsterdam – came in the wake of the breakdown of the baggage-handling system that marred the opening of the showcase new Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow airport at the end of March.
Huge volumes of luggage piled up, causing hundreds of delays and cancellations of flights operated by British Airways, leaving the airline with a large compensation bill.
The SITA report noted that the problems last year affected only 2 percent of checked luggage – totalling 2.25 billion pieces around the globe in 2007.
Most bags that went astray were delivered to their owners within 48 hours, it said.
The statistics came from SITA’s automated tracing system for missing bags, which is used by some 400 airlines and ground-handling companies.
The report said the main immediate cause of baggage delay, accounting for 49 percent in 2007, was mishandling during transfer at airports where passengers where changing flights. But this had declined since 2005, when it was 61 percent.
Failure to load bags on to aircraft accounted for 16 percent, and ticketing errors and security issues accounted for 14 percent, while the rest were due to mishandling by destination airports, space restrictions and tagging errors.