Air transport industry’s IT provider SITA has released a report detailing the rise in mishandled baggage as passenger numbers have grown.

The SITA Baggage IT Insights 2022 report reveals that globally the mishandled baggage rate increased by 24 per cent to 4.35 bags per thousand passengers in 2021.

The report says that the resumption of international and long-haul flights has contributed to an increase in mishandling, with transfer bags accounting for the majority of cases.

An increase in long-haul flights with connections in 2021 pushed up the bags delayed at transfer to 41 per cent – a four point increase from 2020. The mishandling rate at the global level on international routes is 8.7 bags per thousand passengers, whereas it is only 1.85 for domestic routes.

SITA says that at a global level, the likelihood of mishandling a bag is about 4.7 times higher on international routes compared to domestic routes.

Delayed bags accounted for 71 per cent of all mishandled bags in 2021 – a two points increase from 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of lost and stolen bags increased to 6 per cent, but on the positive side those damaged and pilfered decreased to 23 per cent.

SITA explained in a statement that downsizing at airlines, airports and ground handling during the pandemic “has impacted resources and expertise dedicated to baggage management”. It added that the rate may “continue to creep up and become much higher than it was pre-pandemic” should this issue not be rectified.

The provider is calling on the digitalisation of services to rectify the situation, citing the introduction of self-service initiatives in 2021 such as bag tagging options via kiosks and passengers’ mobile devices as useful. According to SITA, 90 per cent of airlines and three quarters of airports plan to make touchless unassisted self-bag drop services available by 2024.

United Airlines recently launched a new service enabling passengers to self-check in their bag at selected US airports, while last year Heathrow airport trialled a technology allowing travellers to interact with its bag drop machines without having to physically touch them.

David Lavorel, CEO of SITA, said:

“The industry now needs to do more with less. As we emerge from the pandemic, our customers’ focus remains on safely managing the end-to-end transport of passengers’ baggage, but now they must also reduce the total cost and training required. There is significant pressure to increase operational efficiency, which is accelerating digitalization.”

SITA also stated in a press release that digitalisation will help to save resources and ensure that operations can quickly adapt to fluctuating passenger numbers.

“There is no better way to ensure efficiency in baggage operations than to avoid mishandling in the first place, preventing the additional costs and resources required to repatriate bags to their owners,” it added.

SITA cites its World Tracer Lost and Found Property solution as an example, which returns items left behind on aircraft or in airports to their owners using AI technology which searches a global database of images and descriptions to match the found item to a missing item report.

“We will continue to collaborate and support the industry to reduce mishandled baggage rates while driving operational efficiencies and sustainable solutions when needed the most,” added Lavorel.

The full report can be downloaded at