Baggage Tracking Snafus Tarnish Airlines’ Brand Value

It’s no secret: airlines’ technology and process for tracking a bag’s travel has been falling short. Both airlines and their customers are losing their patience. Which airlines will be the ones to innovate and gain a competitive edge over the rest? 

A key catalyst is coming from outside the industry: tracking devices. Tile and Apple AirTags have put newfound knowledge in the hands of people about where their missing stuff is. While useful for consumers, these products also reveal the shortcomings of airlines’ baggage tracking and handling processes and systems. 

What that means is that customer expectations for how airlines handle lost baggage are at an all-time high and will only become higher as tracking devices become increasingly adopted by consumers.

Baggage tracking software is a classic story of limited progress. As Tile and AirTags race forward, achieving mass adoption, airlines are still relying on outdated technology partners to respond with a scalable solution to this critical (and costly) crisis.

Airlines’ systems struggle with real-time visibility, leading to delays, misplaced items, and miscommunication. Sometimes, customers are notified that their bag is still being searched for despite already having found it. Stories like this one of a United Airlines customer who took the reins and found his expensive music equipment on the tarmac of Newark Airport show just how important a seamless customer experience is for an airline’s reputation.

This type of poor experience tarnishes the airline’s reputation, which is reflected in NPS scores and can impact customer loyalty. Baggage is often a revenue driver for airlines, and if customers all fear checked bags, this revenue line item will also continue to take a hit for airlines. 

Needless to say, airlines must do better, fast.  

For a baggage software company like SITA’s WorldTracer product, customer retention does not rely on effectiveness – if they fall short, customers do not have the option to use them again or not. The bottom line is that the airlines have everything to lose when a mishandled bag disrupts a customer’s journey. The call for innovation for the estimated $14B global baggage handling industry (source: Fortune) is long overdue, and the old outfits will not solve it. This reminds me of Apple’s technology prowess wiping out Blackberry. A fresh take, solving the critical pieces to correct the wrongs, is what’s needed by the industry.

Products must sell themselves, not legacy contracts or the lowest price.

Skyler Logsdon

CEO, Boomerang