Lufthansa and SITA improve delayed baggage handling

Lufthansa is working with SITA on a system to facilitate the re-routing of delayed baggage, improve the experience of customers who are faced with it and save the airlines money.

Lost or delayed luggage is an air passenger’s worst fear. Even if a whole compensation system exists in case of lost or delayed luggage, the truth is that for the passenger the only thing that matters is to know where his luggage is, to follow it in real time and to recover it as soon as possible.

Lost luggage, a major problem in the airline industry

And if this is a nightmare for passengers it is also a pain for the industry because according to SITA, a provider of IT services for the airline industry, the management of these irregularities and their consequences cost the industry 2.2 billion dollars in 2022.

SITA is also known for its WorldTracer service, which is used to track luggage in such situations and which you have certainly dealt with if such an experience has happened to you.

The problem of re-routing luggage

You may have noticed that when you check-in your luggage, a tag is attached to it. It has codes indicating which flights it should board, these codes are scanned in the baggage sorters and the bag is automatically directed to the right flight.
This is when everything is going well.

When the baggage is delayed for one reason or another, these indications are no longer valid. The baggage must be rerouted manually, which takes time and is a source of error.

It is this crucial point that SITA wanted to improve through a pilot project conducted with Lufthansa. The objective is to automate and digitize this process so that luggage does not need to be re-tagged, as the system automatically associates the codes on the label with a new flight.

This may seem obvious and we thought it was already the case but instead of changing the label with a new code you just have to change the flight associated with the code!

70% of luggage rerouted automatically

The system automatically alerts the passenger, eliminating the need to contact the airport baggage service, automatically reroutes the bag and provides the passenger with real-time information on the status of their bag.

According to SITA, the proof of concept would automatically process 70% of Lufthansa’s delayed luggage in Munich Airport.

On a larger scale, this could save the industry $30 million per year.

Our opinion

Honestly, we believed that the baggage rerouting process was much more automated than it is.

Having said that, knowing that we travel a lot, we confirm that the problems of delayed or lost luggage are our worst fear, much more than cancelled or delayed flights, even if the two sometimes go together. That’s why we only travel with cabin luggage whenever possible.

We have had a variety of experiences this year in this area.

One of them with Lufthansa which we will tell you about in a future article and which went remarkably well I was informed by email as soon as I got off the plane, I immediately got the rerouting information and I was able to track my luggage in real time. I did not need to contact the airport baggage service. In hindsight, I wonder if I was not unknowingly involved in the pilot of this system.

The second with Singapore Airlines, also to come in a future article, went just as well. Immediate alert, immediate rerouting information, real-time status updates. But I had to go to baggage claim anyway.

The third one with TAP is an excellent example of the usefulness of the system tried by SITA and Lufthansa because it is a best of the situations that can happen when a baggage incident is managed by incompetent humans. WorldTracer was never updated, the staff I had on the phone had no idea of the status of the baggage, going so far as to tell me it was still in Lisbon when my Airtag located it at Orly. In the end nobody took care of the luggage, it was stolen and while I had its location outside the airport my interlocutors kept telling me that it had not left Lisbon yet.

Bottom line

Today, the automation of baggage rerouting meets a double challenge.

First of all, it is an economic issue because baggage incidents and their consequences have a real cost for airlines.

But also a customer experience issue. Of course, passengers prefer that their baggage is not delayed or misplaced, but when this happens it is essential that the customer is proactively warned before they even realize it on the baggage conveyor, and has an up-to-date status of their baggage tracking in real time. I also add that it is a question of trust: when thanks to an AirTag or a similar device the passenger can follow his luggage himself, he cannot accept that the airline does not give him the information in its possession or even gives the impression that it knows less than him. It is amusing to remember that it was Lufthansa that wanted to ban AirTags for a while before clumsily backtracking.

In this sense, the initiative of SITA and Lufthansa is more than welcome and we hope to see it soon generalized.

Image : lost bagage perdu by Maxx-Studio via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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