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Present Situation Of Baggage Handling

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Baggage HandlingAn airline may score very high on the passenger’s evaluation in terms of inflight service, pretty airhostesses, inflight entertainment systems, timely arrivals, punctual departures and courtesy at check-in counters. However, the same satisfaction levels may not exist, when it comes to passenger baggage handling. In fact! lost baggages and delayed baggage arrivals and other baggage problems take up a large chunk of an airline’s “headache list”.

How much is the magnitude of the problem? By IATA ‘s own estimates, an amount nearing about $760 million is spent by the airlines, due to lost or misplaced baggage. So you see that it is a really big problem and adding to this cost are the rules related to safety due to increased terror threats.Unaccompanied baggage is not allowed to be loaded in passenger flights and reconciliation of baggage tags with the passengers who have already boarded a flight is a painful process. If at the end, it is found out that a passenger who has checked in, has not actually boarded the plane, then the airline has to remove his baggage from the hold of the aircraft.Airline baggage is fixed with large stick-on barcode tags at the time of luggage check-in. The luggage then moves along various conveyors, which have bar code readers mounted on them, to scan each baggage tag that comes in its field of view.Unfortunately, the readers cannot correctly scan all bar code tags because of the following reasons :

  1. Barcode readers require a clear line of sight. If the tag is misaligned, it cannot be read
     
  2. Baggage articles may get bunched together because of careless loading on belt by the staff, this makes labels unreadable.
     
  3. Tags may be dirtied, torn, wet any damage makes it difficult for the readers to read the barcode automatically.

The baggage is routed to the correct bay for pickup by the baggage trucks which carry it to the right aircraft. Then , the baggage is then loaded into the hold of the aircraft. While loading, again, hand held bar code scanners are used to scan each piece of baggage, so that the central computer now knows which bags have made it to the aircraft hold.During this time, passengers begin boarding the aircraft. Their boarding passes are swiped and this data is fed automatically into the computer system. Now this data is available as a passenger manifest, which tells the airline staff, which of the checked-in passengers actually boarded the aircraft. This is tallied with the passenger’s baggage and a one to many relationship, between the passenger and pieces of baggage is established.This is to prevent unaccompanied baggage from traveling.
Now, suppose, it is detected that a bag which has been loaded into the hold does not have its owner (the passenger) inside the aircraft cabin. This becomes a case of unaccompanied baggage and this bag is then unloaded from the hold. This is not as easy as it sounds. The baggage attendant has to enter the hold and search for this dubious piece of baggage (amongst a sea of similar bags), in a poorly lit hold of a large plane, using only his hand held barcode scanner for guidance.Other problems may be that the bag in question really was supposed to be in another plane, but because of misreading of the bar code, landed up in this particular aircraft. So now its not merely a case of suspicious baggage, it also means an infuriated passenger somewhere whose bag has been “lost”.This entails manual intervention on the part of the airline and co-ordinating with various people to re-unite the passenger with his bag.In case of transit passengers, the situations can get more complex, as the bags and passengers move from one terminal to the next.

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