Lost baggage: Are airlines getting better at not losing passengers' bags?

The airline industry is getting better at not losing passengers' bags. That's the thrust of the 2017 Baggage Report from SITA, which provides information technology services to the airline industry, including baggage handling operations.

In 2016, according to the report, airlines carried a record 3.77 billion passengers. That was an increase of 5.9 per cent on the previous year yet the total number of bags "mishandled" – the industry's go-to word for lost or delayed baggage – fell by 7.2 per cent. The actual figure for the year was 5.7 mishandled bags per 1000 passengers, and that figure has dropped by almost 70 per cent over the last decade.

Despite a huge increase in the volume of bags they handle, airlines have benefited from improvements in the way baggage is scanned and processed, and the outcome is not only a win for passengers but also a big saving for airlines. Back in 2007, mishandled bags cost the airline industry $US4.2 billion. In 2016, that figure was halved, to $US2.1 billion. This was despite a growth in passenger numbers of 52 per cent over the same period.

Improved baggage handling, and lower costs, means a better bottom line for the airlines, and another reason that it is cheaper to fly in real terms in 2017 than ever before.