Good news for air travelers who check their bags and worry about those bags getting to their destination.
According to the just-issued SITA 2018 Baggage Report, airlines around the world have once again improved the rate of baggage delivery, continuing a more than decade-long trend of improvement which has seen baggage mishandling drop by 70% since 2007.
The rate of bag mishandling has dropped, notes SITA, even though 2017 saw a rise in the number of passenger to more than 4 billion.
In 2017, the number of mishandled bags was 5.57 per thousand passengers, the lowest level ever recorded.
That’s good news, but mishandled bags cost the industry an estimated $2.3 billion in 2017. And it is of course a hassle if it is your bag that ends up delayed or lost.
So SITA is encouraging airlines to continue investing in end-to-end bag tracking.
“Over the last decade, we have seen significant improvements in bag management as airlines have taken advantage of technology,” said Barbara Dalibard, CEO, SITA, “End-to-end tracking produces data which reveals where improvements can be made in operational processes. While we won’t see a sudden change in 2018, it is a real turning point for the industry as airlines begin to unlock the value of the tracking data for the 4.65 billion bags they carry.”
Brazilian restaurant for Miami International Airport
A popular chain restaurant from Brazil – Viena – has opened on the top (seventh) floor of the pre-security MIA Hotel at Miami International Airport.
The restaurant, which replaces the “Top of the Port” restaurant that was in that spot for many years, has a menu featuring Brazilian and European dishes, including salt cod fritters (Bolinho de Bacalau), Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and the Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.
In addition to great views, this new restaurant has free Wi-Fi, happy hour, large-screen TVS and electronic charging stations.
Foodie Week at Philadelphia International Airport
March 12-18 is Foodie Week at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) with seven restaurants in Concourse B offering special entrees at a discount – $12 – throughout the week
Baba Bar: Harissa Chicken Sandwich
Boule Café: French Onion Grilled Cheese
Cibo Bistro and Wine Bar: Shrimp Calabrese
Germantown Biergarten: Cheddar Brat Platter
Love Grille: Cheesesteak Hoagie
Mezzogiorno: Short Rib and Tomato Pizza
Noobar: Spicy Chicken Fried Rice
United Airlines passengers can buy a place in line
United Airlines now allows standard economy passengers to purchase Priority Boarding, allowing them to board in group 2.
The cost is $9 per segment and, according to United, the number of passes sold will be “closely controlled based on flight, date, time of day and day-of-week restrictions.”
For those who already have TSA Precheck and really want to move up in the boarding process, this is a less expensive add-on than Premier Access, which offers priority boarding benefits along with other benefit such as access to premier check-in lines and security lanes. Prices for this add-on start at $15 per segment.
Keep in mind: the new Priority Pass option, like Premier Access, is non-refundable and is not available to you if you’ve purchased a Basic Economy ticket.
SXSW bring extra music to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
The SXSW mash-up of conferences and festivals is underway in Austin and the airport in the Live Music Capital of the World is doing its part to make sure everyone gets their fill of music.
In addition to the usual 21 live music events it offers each week, Austin Bergstrom International Airport is adding six extra performances during peak SXSW travel days – March 12, 13 and 19.
Of the extra performances, bands will play at the airport’s Asleep at the Wheel State at Ray Benson’s Roadhouse near Gate 10, while extra solo acts will perform at Annie’s and Waterloo. See the full schedule here.
Post Office plus at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports
The Parisian postal service – La Poste – has opened enhanced post offices at both Paris-Orly and Paris-Charles de Gaulle airports, In addition to 24-hour postal machines, these post offices will have gift shops, terminals where customers can make photo postcards, rentable work spaces, and other services, including a key drop.
Your face is your boarding pass
Passengers flying with British Airways from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to London Gatwick can now opt to use their face as their boarding pass, thanks to SITA’s biometric boarding technology, which scans a person’s face and matches it up with the data U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has on that passenger in their files.
The process is already being used with certain JetBlue flights at Boston Logan International Airport and British Airways flights at Los Angeles International Airport.
Going biometric isn’t a requirement to board the flights testing the new technology, but last year’s SITA’s passenger IT survey showed that 57% of passengers would use biometrics instead of a boarding pass. SITA reports that real world rates are even higher than that: nearly 100% of passengers are opting to use the biometric boarding during the trials.
My May “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY is all about some of the cool new technology – and creative uses of emerging technologies – that may soon make your trip through the airport less painful and, possibly, more rewarding.
The ideas were featured at the Air Transport IT Summit I attended in Brussels recently, which was convened by SITA, a global air transport IT provider owned by airlines and other air transport companies.
Here are some of the ideas that caught my eye:
No more check-in lines? KATE may help
Last year, SITA Lab, SITA’s technology research arm, introduced a self-propelling baggage robot, named Leo, who may someday greet you at the airport curb, check you in for your flight, issue your bag tags and then take your bags away for processing.
This year, SITA Lab unveiled Leo’s cousin KATE, an intelligent check-in kiosk that can move autonomously, and in teams to busy or congested areas in airports.
KATE the kiosk can monitor a variety of data sources, including flight and passenger flow information, sense where and where additional check-in kiosks are needed and, using geo-location and obstacle avoidance technology, move through the airport without bumping into things or people.
The robotic kiosks are also designed to automatically return to their docking stations when they are low on power or if they need to be a fresh supply of boarding passes or bag tags.
Kate is cute (although she did run over my toes) and these roving kiosks could not only help airports and airlines better serve passengers when rebooking is necessary due to flight cancellations or weather delays, but they might also be useful on duty in offsite locations, such as train stations and convention halls and, possibly, cruise ports.
New ways to pay airlines – and get paid by airlines
Airlines that use the common-use SITA check-in kiosks and bag-drop stations now standard at many airports currently don’t currently have a secure way to accept passenger payments at those terminals for extras such as baggage fees upgrades and other ancillary items.
At the Air Transport IT Summit, SITA announced that is has solved the ‘multi-merchant’ problem with a new payment system that uses point-to-point encryption (P2PE) technology that can accept various forms of payment, including MasterCard, Visa and Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant chip cards.
Look for a roll-out of this in SITA’s common-use kiosks and bag drops stations at airports in the next few months.
On the flipside, for those occasions when airlines must (or want to) compensate passengers for flight delays, cancellation or overbookings, a company called TravaCoin has partnered with SITA to test a voucher system that airlines can use to quickly issue credit to passengers that can (or can only) be spent on new flights, upgrades, hotel stays, services inside the airport or perhaps donated to local charities and non-profits.
TravaCoin CEO and founder, Brian Whelan told USA TODAY he envisions the digital currency being of special interest to airlines based in or flying through European Union countries that are currently required by EU Regulation 261 to pay passengers up to 600 euros (currently about $668) per inconvenience.
“At the moment airlines are holding out and making it awkward,” said Whelan. “They’re losing the money eventually, but also losing customer loyalty. This is a way for airlines, even airlines not covered by the regulations, to be proactive by issuing currency that can be spent in the TravaCoin community. The goodwill and the money go hand in hand.”
So do the benefits that airlines, especially, might gain from adopting TravaCoin currency for compensating passengers.
“There is a ‘breakages’ notion,” said Whelan, “If you give people vouchers, one way the merchant benefits is if the customer never spends the voucher.”
TravaCoin’s surveys have found that while many passengers who say they’d accept the vouchers would ‘top up’ and spend some of their own cash on top of the voucher value, about 20 percent would likely not spend their vouchers at all.
The goodwill aspect of TravaCoin appeals to Brian Cobb, vice-president, Customer Experience at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which has successfully used new technology to improve customer service with reduced checkpoint wait times and cleaner restrooms in public areas of the airport.
“Love the idea. Especially with the consumer choice in how to spend, including donating back to the community,” said Cobb. “While it is likely sometime in coming, airports may need to leverage customer service recovery tools much in the way airlines do today. It’s a solid method to support recovering the brand perception and exceeding customer expectations.”
A collection of more than 100 toy robots – many with their original boxes – and robot-related catalogs belonging to an Orange County, CA resident are on display at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in the Vi Smith Concourse Gallery, on the upper level across from Gate 18 through 21 in Terminal C.
Robots of a different kind – on display this week at the the SITA IT Summit in Brussels – may soon help ease long check-in lines at your airport.
SITA Lab has created KATE, a smart check-in kiosk that knows when it may be needed and can move on its own to congested areas in airports.
The robotic kiosk uses geo-location technology to find its way through the airport and will use Wi-Fi to connect to airline and airport systems, says SITA Lab, so ‘Kate’ can move freely through the airport terminal using obstacle avoidance technology to avoid bumping into people or things.
The robotic kiosks are designed to give airports and airlines an added tool for managing peaks in passenger flow caused by delays, scheduling peaks or other situations and, while brand new, will soon be tested in airports.
My Well Mannered Traveler column – Mishandled baggage: Mission Accomplished? – on MSNBC.com this week is all about the odds of having your checked baggage arrive at your destination airport when you do – and the airlines’ efforts to improve those odds.
The good news is that those odds have been improving. According to statistics released recently by the Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2009 the major U.S. carriers reduced the rate of mishandled, mangled and lost bags to the lowest level recorded since 2004.
Hooray, right? Well, just maybe. In 2009 major airlines mishandled “just” 3.91 bags per 1,000 passengers. That’s an improvement over 2008’s rate of 5.26 but, still, more than 2.19 million pieces of luggage went astray in 2009.
What’s behind the numbers?
The numbers are better, so we might conclude that airlines aren’t just pocketing our checked bags fees but using that money to improve baggage handling systems.
Some actually did. But last year’s improved statistics have more to do with depressed travel patterns than with airline attentiveness. In 2009, there were fewer passengers, fewer flights and, therefore, fewer checked bags to be mishandled.
Will it last?
The improved baggage handling numbers will only last, says Catherine Mayer, a vice President at SITA, a company specializing in information technology (IT) for the air transport industry, if airports, airlines, and ground handlers “use this slow travel period to invest in fixing the baggage management system.”
One tool being used by airlines, airports and ground handlers is the baggage improvement program, or BIP. Created by IATA, the International Air Transport Association, the program’s goal is to halve the global rate of baggage mishandling by 2012. Not just to make passengers happy, say IATA spokesman Steve Lott, but to help airlines fix their bottom lines: “Globally, mishandled baggage cost airlines $3.3 billion in 2008. So the airline industry has a financial incentive to make sure they close the gap.”
The fixes include some costly, sophisticated technology but also some cheap common sense ones, such as painting spacing lines on the belt behind the check-in counter so bags don’t begin their journey all bunched up.
There are also some things you can do to help increase the odds of your bags arriving safely. In addition to putting your contact information and travel itinerary inside your baggage, inspect the outside of your bags before each trip. If there are old tag stubs and bar code labels stuck on your luggage from a previous journey, remove them. That way you won’t run the risk of confusing the automatic barcode readers in the baggage handling system and having your bags end up in a city you visited back 1999.