We have already read on what happens to luggage after check-in. Next question that crosses our mind is will my luggage actually make it to the destination? Lost luggage is the most stressful for travellers but it’s a major headache for airlines.
With so much of excitement and breathing a sigh of relief, you wave goodbye to your suitcase as it bumps out of sight on a conveyor belt.
Yearly, millions of passengers gladly entrust their luggage to a scrambled system of conveyor belts, with hitting of sharp corners, dragging on the wet floors, clumsy hands and trucks, without a clue what goes on behind the scenes and simply trusting that they will see their valuables again.
With the increase in cancellation of flights and faults seen in terminal's automated baggage-handling system all have led to disaster for travellers moreover also created an immense backlog of lost luggage.
In principle, the process for handling checked-in luggage is direct. Departing Baggage Systems i.e when you depart or fly out will "input" your bag along with a tag attached with a barcode to it, before sending it alongside the conveyor belt, then it is screened, arranged into the baggage cart that is been allocated to your flight and then loaded on to the aircraft. Arriving Baggage Systems i.e when you land at the destination will unload the luggage from aircraft, load the luggage on to a cart and then unload it on to the labeled carousel in the arrivals hall.
It all sounds very simple and straightforward. Yet airlines tend to deliver the luggage to wrong place, wrong carousel or not send it at all, or lose it.
Ever wondered what happens wrong in such a streamlined and straight forward process-
Increased Traffic –
Recently there’s been increase in number of passengers using the air travel which brings in extra pressure on old systems handling baggage.
Increased Security -
The security demands on baggage in all countries across globe have increased. The system puts a tag on luggage with just the three letters which indicates where the bag is going. Now if the bag missed the flight for whatever reason, a handler could simply put the bag on the next flight. Now, with an increase in security, the bags have to be checked and entire process to be followed all over again before being allowed onboard all of which consume a lot of time.
Who is Responsible?
There are three stakeholders responsible for the entire activity of taking care of luggage - the airport, the airline and the company handling baggage. More the number of parties involved more is the potential for things to go wrong.
The process from bags check in and removing bags from chutes to aircraft and then getting bags from planes to terminal is handled by airline and its baggage handling agents.
The airport manager is responsible for providing ample support and operating the mechanical baggage systems which helps in screening and sorting the bags.
When this issue does arise?
The most apt reason is when flights are off-schedule; arrival may be early or late. All the baggage-handling teams unite themselves to the fixed schedule, and in the hustle and bustle of busy airports this schedules are tight. With the increase in fuel prices and various other factors, everyone is trying their best to drive down aviation costs; it is not feasible to have spare teams for the backup. If a plane has arrived off schedule and is late, the team assigned for the task of unloading that plane might have been deployed to another flight that has come in on time.
An off-schedule of as minimum as 20 or 30 minutes between two flights is everything that is required for things to get really backed up.
But it is not always airline's fault there are various other reasons wherein things can go wrong.
Another is the automated baggage handling systems – which read the barcodes on luggage labels to help bags find their way to right airport. Sometimes the automated system can misread and things go haywire. Frequently, this is seen when suitcases flip over on the conveyor belt, and the tags are not visible from the scanners.
If your luggage is mishandled, delayed or lost your holiday will be tumbledown. There's not much that we as passengers can do about mishandled baggage, except take as little as possible and take it into the cabin with us. Travelling light is the only guaranteed way that both you and your bags will go on the same holiday.