After having lost her checked luggage for the third time in a year, advertising professional Romi Galgotia swore she’d never travel with a well-stocked suitcase again. But, a month later, when the airline called her back to ask her to reclaim her lost baggage she couldn’t believe her luck. “They had found not one, but two suitcases I had lost last year,” says the 34-year-old. “Plus I got to keep the $300 they had given me as compensation.”
It wasn’t just a matter of luck that Romi found her baggage. According to the 2010 baggage report by SITA Aero, specialists in air transport communications, the number of lost baggage has come down 23.8 per cent globally. In other words, the number of lost bags has fallen from 42.5 million per year to 25 million bags per year. “The Air Transport Industry (ATI) has saved about $460 million as compared to 2008,” says Maneesh Jaikrishna, country director, South Asia, SITA Aero. “While passengers can’t control baggage mishandling we’re trying to make it easier for them.”
So why has there been such a drastic drop in the numbers? For starters, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA), there are fewer people flying across the world. “The passenger traffic in 2009 was 2.5 per cent lower than 2008,” says Amitabh Khosla, country director, IATA, India. That is, there were only 2.21 billion world travellers in 2009 as compared to 2.27 billion in 2008.
Another reason, the report states, is that fewer passengers are checking in bags to avoid paying fees. “With more and more airlines restricting baggage weight to 23 kg, people are travelling light, sometimes only with a hand baggage,” says aviation engineer Nikhilesh Choudhary. “And when there’s lesser luggage to load, obviously there are lesser things to lose.”
And yet, despite tracking systems and improvements in baggage handling systems (refer box) lost and mishandled baggage cost ATI around $2.5 billion in 2009, a sum they can’t afford to lose in the current economic situation.