The airline industry lost fewer bags last year, despite a rise in the number of passengers.
According to the ninth annual Sita Baggage Report, out yesterday, the rate of mishandled bags dropped 1.78 per cent in 2012 - equivalent to 8.83 bags per 1,000 passengers being lost. The 2011 figure was 8.99.
This was achieved despite a 4.5 per cent rise in airline passenger numbers to 2.95 billion and the resulting increased pressure on airport baggage operations.
Sita, an international specialist in air transport communications and IT solutions, said the improvement had been achieved by an industry focus on improving baggage transfers between flights.
This is traditionally the "pinch point" in the baggage handling process and the leading cause of delay, said the report. However, industry figures showed that lost transfer bags last year were down 9 per cent from 2011.
The report said the fall was achieved by airports investing in processes and systems to improve both baggage handling efficiency and the speed with which bags travel through the airport.
"The industry has made a concerted effort to improve baggage handling operations in recent years through significant investment and innovation," said Francesco Violante, the chief executive of Sita. "Over the past six years, the rate of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers has fallen 53.2 per cent, saving the industry US$2.1 billion [Dh7.71bn] in 2012 compared to 2007.
"The six-year trend shows that our collaborative efforts to improve baggage handling are paying off to the benefit of both passengers and airlines.
"With the number of air passengers expected to reach more than 3.6 billion by 2016, we need to continue to work together to improve baggage handling operations." A mishandled bag is defined as checked baggage that is delayed, damaged, pilfered, lost or stolen.
In 2012, passengers reported 26.04 million mishandled bags. Delayed bags accounted for 82.9 per cent, down from 2011. Damaged or pilfered bags represented 12.9 per cent of mishandled bags, while 4.2 per cent were reported lost or stolen.